A federal court in the District of Columbia has denied the request of the Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association, Inc. to intervene in lawsuits brought by female and Hispanic farmers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) alleging gender and race bias in the administration of farm loan and disaster benefit programs. Love v. Vilsack, No. 00-2502 (U.S. Dist. Ct., D.D.C., decided June 13, 2014). Additional information about the gender discrimination claims appears in Issue 374 of this Update.
The association was not a member of the settlement class established to resolve the claims of African-American farmers who failed to file claims for administrative adjudication before the deadline expired in Pigford v. Glickman (Pigford I). Those missing the deadline saw their claims revived under the 2008 Farm Bill and consolidated in litigation collectively known as Pigford II. Details about that litigation appear in Issue 395 of this Update. The association sought (i) a declaration that the Constitution mandates that its members who are eligible “Pigford claimants” under the 2008 Farm Bill, but did not timely file claims under the settlement agreement reached in that case, are entitled to file claims under the framework established for Hispanic and female farmers; and (ii) a permanent injunction against USDA to refrain from discrimination in processing black farmers’ loan applications.
The court determined that the motion to intervene failed on a number of grounds, including that (i) the first claim is plainly barred by Pigford II, “which unequivocally extinguished the right of any Pigford claimant to receive a determination on the merits of a claim outside of the claims process created by Pigford II”; (ii) the association failed to demonstrate Article III standing; and (iii) the motion was untimely, given its filing nearly 13 years after the plaintiffs filed suit, almost three years after USDA announced its intention to create the administrative claims process to settle the claims asserted in the women and Hispanic farmer lawsuits and more than a year after USDA finalized the claims process. The court also found that the association did not need to intervene to pursue its second claim, because it can be brought in separate litigation and “the association will suffer no harm if intervention is denied,” while intervention at this late date would disadvantage the existing parties.