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Charlotte Area

Deadline For Black Farmer Settlement Nears

Less than three weeks remain for black farmers to file a claim in a discrimination settlement with the federal government. The settlement known as "Pigford 2" seeks to compensate black farmers who were denied access to federal aid during the 1980s and early 1990s. Meetings will be held in Charlotte on Monday and Tuesday to help farmers file a claim. Congress has approved $1.25 billion to compensate black farmers in the discrimination settlement, but qualifying for a cut of that requires some legwork. First off, the settlement is only for black farmers who were too late in applying for the first settlement with the Department of Agriculture in 1999. Second, attorney Greg Francis says the farmers will need to make the case they were unfairly passed over for government loans and other assistance. Francis says farmers should bring documentation "that can demonstrate that you actually had a farm and what you were farming and the crops you farmed, and anything to substantiate the allegations of discrimination that you may have." Francis is one of the attorneys appointed to help black farmers file for the settlement. More than 200 meetings have been scheduled - mostly in the southeast - to assist filers. On Monday and Tuesday, the effort comes to Charlotte. Beginning at 9 a.m. both days, black farmers and their descendants can get free claim filing assistance at the Marriott Executive Park off Tyvola Road. Francis says there is no fee to file a claim and filers do not need to hire an attorney, since all legal fees will be paid through the settlement. "There has been fraud going on where unscrupulous individuals have solicited clients by telling them this is a free-for-all or if you pay a certain fee that we can get you in the case and make you eligible," says Francis. Some 40,000 black farmers are expected to qualify for payments of about $50,000. The filing deadline is May 11. The exact amount of compensation will not be determined until all claims have been reviewed. That means checks won't arrive in black farmers' mailboxes until sometime late this year or early 2013.