By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – At least 100 Northeast Mississippi farmers have applied to join a class action lawsuit stemming from a racial discrimination settlement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Michael McHenry of Gleason & McHenry has been helping farmers get information about the suit.
Tupelo-based McHenry was on his way back from Jackson on Wednesday, where he and his colleagues helped about 25 people apply to be included with the suit.
The deadline is midnight Friday. Eligible members of the suit stand to get a settlement of up to $50,000. Some, but not many, McHenry said, may get a settlement of up to $250,000 if they can prove actual damages related to racial discrimination from the USDA.
The class action lawsuit alleged that the USDA denied loans to black farmers from 1981 to 1996. The government settled the lawsuit in 2010. About $1.25 billion has been appropriated to the settlement.
McHenry has been working on the case since 2008. He expects less than 30,000 farmers will qualify for the settlement.
“Mississippi had the most farmers that were eligible to participate, but we don’t know how many have filed,” he said. “Mississippi, unfortunately, was fertile ground for discrimination.”
He estimates at least 3,000 Mississippi farmers have applied. He estimates about half of those will qualify.
After the deadline Friday, a third party will review the applicants to see who qualifies. Then, compensation will start.
McHenry hopes the farmers will start getting money this fall from the settlement.
“This is a story where we are celebrating that we are righting the wrong,” he said.
To find out if you qualify, call (877) 810-8110.
MISSISSIPPI has the largest number of potential applicants for a class action lawsuit that settled racial discrimination claims within the USDA.
The deadline to apply is midnight Friday. Average individual settlements can go up to $50,000.
The law firms have info meetings scheduled today and Friday in Memphis and Jackson.
For more information, call (877) 810-8110 or go to blackfarmercase.com.