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Attorney says could be a year before discrimination lawsuit on behalf of black farmers is heard

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Richard Strong, 50, his brother Gregory Strong, 48, and Stacy Griffin, 42, are three of six black seasonal farmers suing Pitts Farms Partnership in Indianola 
AP/Rogelio V. Solis 

A Mississippi civil rights attorney says it could be a year or more before a lawsuit brought by black farmers against an employer is heard in court.



Mississippi Center for Justice Attorney Robert McDuff wants a large farming operation in the state held accountable for racial discrimination.  He says six black plaintiffs claim Pitts Farms Partnership in Indianola, began recruiting white workers from South Africa in 2014; paying blacks $7.25 an hour and whites $2 to $4.00 more an hour.

“They eventually laid off most of the local black workers in favor of the white South Africans and they lied to the federal government in order to obtain visas for the South Africans,” said McDuff.

McDuff says the H-2A Visa Program used by Pitts Farms allows them to hire foreign workers temporarily if there aren’t sufficient workers in the U.S. to do the jobs.  But U.S. workers must be paid the same wages as foreign workers. McDuff says they’re seeking lost wages and punitive damages for the plaintiffs. But the case could take a while to go to federal court.

“At some point in the near future we’ll be obtaining more information, obtaining documents, taking depositions, and it probably would go to trial in about a year from now.  But that’s just a rough estimate,” said McDuff.

The attorney says racial discrimination against agricultural workers is a problem in many farming communities nationwide and a decades old practice in the Mississippi Delta.  MPB News attempted to reach Pitts Farms Partnership but didn’t receive a response.