WASHINGTON (Reuters) - African-American farmers who faced discrimination at by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in farm loans are being notified they may qualify for a part of a $1.25 billion settlement.
A series of class action lawsuits found that between 1981 and 1996 the USDA systematically discriminated against African-American farmers on the basis of race.
The notification process is informing members of the class action lawsuit that the most recent court decision opens up the field of eligibility to those excluded from earlier court decisions, a statement from lawyers involved in the litigation said on Monday.
Those who experienced the discrimination or their heirs, kin, or legal representatives should file a claim and comment, or may object to the settlement, with the federal court.
The deadline for filing claims may be as early as February 28, 2012, the statement from the lawyers said.
By not acting, claimants forfeit their award and the right to sue in the future, according to a notice being sent to members of previous lawsuits.
(Reporting by Wendell Marsh; Editing by Jerry Norton)