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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Black farmers group suing Hood over AG's consumer warning

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Dec 13, 2013

JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) -- A black farmers group is suing Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood in federal court over a consumer warning Hood issued in October relating to the group.

At the time, Hood issued a press release warning consumers of persons or organizations offering to aid in filing claims in the Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation involving the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"It has been brought to our attention that there are individuals/organizations who are holding meetings statewide and charging a fee to help black farmers file claims and participate in lawsuits when, in fact, the deadline to do so has long since passed," the attorney general said in his Oct. 23 release.

"We are looking into these allegations and what we can do about them, but feel the need to warn consumers to be wary."

More than $1 billion in settlements were approved by federal courts on Oct. 27, 2011 to settle claims by black farmers who alleged that they were discriminated against based on race by the USDA between 1981 and 1996.

The USDA allegedly wrongfully denied them farm loans, loan servicing and other benefits or gave them loans with unfair terms.

The deadline for filing a claim in the settlement was May 11, 2012.

"Wherever there is money involved, we find scammers trying to steal it from those who most need it," Hood said in October. "What a shame that we have to send out such a warning. You can never be too careful these days."

Now, the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association Inc. is suing the attorney general over those comments.

The group filed its complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi in Jackson Dec. 5.

President Thomas Burrell told WTOK-TV this week that his group believes Hood has interfered, and will continue to interfere, with the group's rights.

"And we are asking here again, a federal judge to declare that we do have these rights," he told the television station. "We're asking a federal judge to instruct Mr. Hood to cease and desist from interfering with our rights. We're asking a federal judge to force Mr. Hood make a public statement, acknowledging that he did indeed act negligently."

Hood's office says it stands by its original comments.

Click here to view a copy of the group's complaint.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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