Late in 2010, Congress funded the controversial $1.25 billion Pigford II settlement. The funding came only after a protracted period of negotiations, lobbying and repeated Senate Democratic leadership head fakes regarding when funding votes would be held.

Since President Obama signed the Claims Resolution Act last December, many African Americans have asked about Pigford eligibility requirements and if there is still time to sign up as a claimant. In late January, to put those questions to rest – and ask several more on Keepseagle (the Native American class action suit against USDA) and new claims regarding fraud and Pigford – Farm Press spoke with Pigford class attorney David Frantz.

Frantz, based in Washington, D.C., is with the Fassett, Mary Jean, Conlon, Frantz, Phelan, & Pires law firm. Those familiar with the original, late-1990s Pigford case will recognize the name of Frantz’ partner, Alexander Pires, who is largely credited with constructing the original settlement.

Frantz spoke on Pigford and Keepseagle, the expected winnowing of claimant numbers, fraud allegations and the scrutinizing of claims. Among his comments:

There are a lot of folks that want to know if there’s still time to sign up as a Pigford II claimant.

“The claims process (for Pigford II) has not started yet. That won’t happen until after there’s a final settlement agreement approved by the court after a ‘fairness hearing.’

“So, no claims have been filed yet. However, to be eligible to file a claim in Pigford II, the individual must have filed a request to participate in Pigford I by June 18, 2008.”

So, June 2008 is the cut-off?

“Yes. If a farmer says ‘I’d like to sign up but I’ve never filed anything before in this case,’ then he, or she, is too late.”

Pigford II “is intended for people who tried to get into Pigford I, sent a written request to do so. But that request was turned down or not acted upon.”