US House Passes NAACP-Supported Funding For Pigford II Black Farmer Racial Discrimination Lawsuit


Earlier this afternoon, by a vote of 256 to 152, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to appropriate the $1.25 billion necessary to fund the Pigford II settlement between Black farmers and the U.S. government. Specifically, this bill will fund the settlement announced in February of this year between the US Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Justice and as many as 70,000 African American farmers, many of whom suffered blatant racial discrimination at the hands of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for decades, with cash damage awards and debt relief. Special thanks goes to House Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, and House Whip Clyburn for their leadership in ushering this crucial legislation through passage for a third time.

Passage of this bill, which President Obama is expected to sign soon, caps off a struggle which many African American farmers have been waging for decades. Too many Black farmers have died, lost their farms, or otherwise been forced out of farming because of blatant discrimination by the USDA. President Obama, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and Attorney General Holder deserve great credit for moving this settlement forward, as it has festered and was effectively dormant for years.

More recently, funding for Pigford II has been stalled in the U.S. Senate. The money was approved of by the US House twice before this year, only to have it stripped out of bills by the Senate. Credit goes to Senators Harry Reid (NV) and Charles Grassley (IA) for their diligence. On November 19, 2010, we surmounted a huge hurdle when the Senate passed the bill funding the Pigford II settlement by unanimous consent.

There is an urgency to pass this appropriation to settle the class action lawsuits of African-American farmers and Native Americans. Many of the farmers who would qualify for monies under the settlement have waited as long as 10 years to be compensated; some have already died or lost their farms. After years of discriminatory treatment by USDA credit and program agencies, these farm families have already waited almost a decade for compensation for these well-established claims. It is time to allow these farmers to focus on the future, and move forward unencumbered by the racial discrimination of the past.

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