“Black farmers throughout the country unfortunately faced discrimination in past decades when trying to obtain services from USDA. This discrimination is well-documented, the courts have affirmed this discrimination, and Congress has twice acknowledged the need to settle with those who have suffered from this discrimination. It is now time for Congress to pass the funding so the victims of this discrimination can get the opportunity to receive the compensation that they are due.” -Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, September 2010
On Friday, November 19, the Senate finally passed a bill to fund the Pigford II class action lawsuit settlement between black farmers and USDA, along with funding for the Cobell settlement between Indian tribes and the Department of the Interior.
Also included in the legislation was resolution of tribal water rights claims for the White Mountain Apache, Crow, Taos Pueblo, and Aamodt Tribes plus a one-year extension of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who fought tirelessly for the Pigford funding, issued this statement after the measure’s adoption.
Speaking of the 75,000 black farmers seeking relief, Grassley said: “The Department of Agriculture has admitted that discrimination occurred. We are obligated to do our best in getting those who deserve it, some relief. This is a chance for people who believe they were wronged to show their case before a neutral party and have it judged on the merits. It’s time to give justice to these claimants who were previously left out, and move forward into a new era of civil rights at the Department of Agriculture.”
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack also issued a statement this afternoon.
The over $4 billion price tag for the combined measure, including $1.15 billion for Pigford II, was fully offset by extending custom user fees and anti-dumping duties, making program integrity changes to unemployment insurance, and rescinding surpluses from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. An earlier draft suggestion to cut certain farm bill conservation programs was dropped from the final package.
Even though the House has previously passed bills to fund Pigford and Cobell, they must now take up the full Senate-passed package for the bill to then move to the President for his signature. House leadership is indicating they will schedule that vote after the Thanksgiving week recess.
The Kansas Black Farmers Association was founded in 1999 by Nicodemus, KS farmers (4 hours west of Topeka, KS). The organization’s moto is “Preserving Black Land Stewardship & the Farming Legacy.” website
Article Source: National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition