In the past two weeks BFAA, Inc. has been the recipient of good and promising news:
First, on Wednesday, February 22, 2017, BFAA, Inc. was, by and through one of its attorney(s), able to stop a scheduled foreclosure sale of a farm by USDA against
One of BFAA, Inc.’s members in the state of Mississippi. BFAA, Inc.’ attorney filed a Complaint in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) on this member’s behalf just days before a scheduled public sale of approximately 120 acres which he purchased in 2011 from a relative. This member was unable to make his scheduled payments because of an illness that created a “physical and/or mental limitation” on his ability to (a) service his debt to USDA on the loan and (b) unable to “complete” his claim for relief in Pigford II (In re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation) (Pigfrod II) (Case 1:08-mc-00511-PLF, Document 170-2, Filed 05/13/11, Page 2 of 110)) class action lawsuit.1
Fortunately, the Court agreed with BFAA, Inc.’s attorney in that — as our attorney argued — the member had not been able to file his meritorious claim of discrimination in any class action lawsuit against USDA — as was provided for by Congress in the 2008 Food, Conservation and Energy Act (2008 Farm Bill) (Public Law No. 110-234 and/or 110-246 (Sections 14011 and/or 14012)), as follows:
It is the sense of Congress that all pending claims and class actions brought against the Department of Agriculture by socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers (as defined in 355(e) of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act (7 U.S.C. 2003(e)), including Native American, Hispanic, and female farmers or ranchers, based on racial, ethnic, or gender discrimination in farm programs participation should be resolved in an expeditious and just manner. Section 14011.
Additionally, Section 14012 of the Farm Bill stated that:
“[a]ny Pigford claimant who has not previously obtained a determination on the merits of a Pigford claim may, in a civil action brought in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, obtain that determination.”
See 2008 Farm Bill at Sections 14011 and 14012 respectively.
BFAA, Inc.’s lawyer further argued that the lawyers, facilitators, adjudicators and arbitrators who were paid ($92,000,000) by the government (USDA) to administer the Settlement Agreement in Pigford II failed to adhere to their — Court agreed upon — representations, responsibilities and duties (contract) with Black farmers as spelled out in the Settlement Agreement as follows:
In the case of a Claimant who is deceased, the legal representative of the Claimant’s estate may submit a claim on the Claimant’s behalf. If there is no legal representative, any other individual who asserts a right to be the legal representative of the Claimant’s estate may submit a claim on the Claimant’s behalf. If there is no legal representative and more than one individual submits a claim on behalf of the Claimant, a Track A Neutral or Track B Neutral designated by the Claims Administrator shall decide which of the individuals is entitled to pursue the claim on the Claimant’s behalf.
In the case of a Claimant who is unable to submit a claim on his or her own behalf due to a physical or mental limitation, the Claimant’s legal representative may submit a claim on the Claimant’s behalf. If there is no legal representative, any other individual who asserts a right to be the legal representative may submit a claim on the Claimant’s behalf. If there is no legal representative and more than one individual submits a claim on
behalf of an individual who is unable to submit a claim on his or her own behalf, a Track A Neutral or Track B Neutral designated by the Claims Administrator shall decide which of the individuals is entitled to pursue the claim on the Claimant’s behalf.
See Pigford II Settlement Agreement at Page 17.
“…..this is a material and significant development,” states BFAA, Inc. President, Thomas Burrell.
Question: Why is this Court decision important to other BFAA, Inc.’s members (their heirs and representatives) who were unable to file a timely claim against USDA?
Answer: BFAA, Inc. believes that there were thousands of claimants whose claims were not filed because (1) either the claimants had either passed away or (2) were not physically or mentally capable of completing their claims for relief on time and (3) no relative or representative was able to complete a “timely” claim on the Claimant’s behalf.
To the extent that these claimants are similarly situated to the Black farmer in Mississippi, they too have been damaged by the lawyer’s, facilitator’s, adjudicator’s and other neutral’s miserable failure to notify and represent their clients (heirs and representatives).
Conclusion: BFAA, Inc. believes that this Court ruling provides a lawful remedy for those Claimants (heirs and/or representatives) who are similarly situated to the Black farmer, herein above mentioned , in Mississippi to: (a) petition and request the Court to allow them to be able to file a claim and/or (b) file a “class action” lawsuit against the lawyers, facilitators, adjudicators and other neutrals for, among other things, damages resulting from a breach of contract and willful negligence in the Pigford II settlement Agreement. These parties knowingly failed to provide the representation to these socially disadvantaged claimants and did not fulfill their duties in spite of asking the Court to pay them almost a hundred million dollars for rendering their service (contract) to the Pigford II claimants.
“This willful neglect will explain why over 50,000 of the purported 89,000 claimants in the Pigford II lawsuit did not receive any compensation from the billions of dollars that were made available by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill,” concludes, Burrell.
The Second, bit of good news is that BFAA, Inc. President, Thomas Burrell met with officials of the Trump administration, along with members of the Republican Congress, to discuss ways by which this new administration can develop policies and regulations to make it easier for the Africans American (agri-business) community to receive its fair share of government contracts, access to capital and to be able to compete and create enterpenurals and jobs for the sustainment of wealth building opportunities as is enjoyed by white citizens.2
Most importantly these officials and representatives were “shocked” and in disbelief when BFAA, Inc. President, Thomas Burrell explained that the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack and the Claims Administrator (Epic Systems in Portland, Oregon) under the Obama administration denied thousands of African American male farmers from participating in the Hispanic and Female farmers and ranchers voluntary claims process because of their race.
You will recall that the Hispanic and Female Claim Form asked for the race and gender of all applicants. Consequently, all applicants who indicated that they were an African American male received a denial letter as follows:
Dear Estate of xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx,
Thank you for your interest in the Hispanic and Women Farmers and Ranchers Claims Resolution Process. To participate in this Process, you must be either Hispanic/Latino or female. On your Claim Form, you indicated that you are an African American male. As such, you are not eligible to participate in this Claims Process, and your claim has been DENIED.
You will recall further that BFAA, Inc. was the only advocacy organization that filed a class action lawsuit against USDA and the Claims facilitator (Epiq Systems) for violating Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Boyland et al., v. Unites States Department Of Agriculture et al. (Case 1:15-cv-01112-TSC). This class action lawsuit is still pending in Federal Court in Washington D.C.
Moreover, President Burrell was very encouraged when one of the Trump officials stated that, among other things, “President Trump could solve many of the denied claims by the neutrals (for USDA’s benefit) by issuing an Executive Order.” Recall, if you will, President Burrell has been stating that, “… President Trump has the power — as did President Obama — to solve these unsettled claims with the African American community by issuing Executive Orders.”
To be sure, BFAA, Inc. President, Thomas Burrell was asked specifically to list some of the issues and regulations that are preventing Black farmers from being able to obtain the same loans and other credit benefits that other farmers and groups are enjoying from USDA. President, Burrell and BFAA, Inc. attorneys are currently perfecting a letter containing recommendations for the Trump administration to consider regarding ways to solve the unsettled claims by Black farmers and their heirs and representatives.
Lastly, these meetings were the result of a letter that President Burrell wrote to the then President Elect Trump in November of last year. See, Letter to President Elect Trump at www.mybfaa.us.
BFAA, Inc. will continue to keeps its members posted and aware of the developments from this Administration when they occur. Thank you!
1 There were approximately 60,000 to 89,000 Late Filers according to the attorneys (Class Counsel) in Pigford II. However, only approximately 18,000 claimants were filed by Black farmers in 2012 and 2013 and even fewer were indeed paid. See, Congressional Research Service: nationalaglawcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/assets/crs/RS20430.pdf at 9.
2 The African American’s right to contract was codified in the very first (Civil Rights Act of 1866) Act that Congress passed to allow Blacks to enjoy the same rights and privileges as white citizen to sue, give evidence and be a party to any lawful proceedings for the protection of person and property. See, 42 U.S.C. Section 1981.