Judge Approves Landmark $1.2 Billion Settlement for Black Farmers

Tens of thousands of farmers who suffered racial discrimination by the U.S. Agriculture Department in the 1980s and '90s may start getting compensation soon.

By Jorge Rivas Oct 28, 2011

A federal judge on Thursday approved a $1.25 billion settlement in a lawsuit filed against the  Agriculture Department by thousands of black farmers.  The group of farmers said that they experienced widespread racial bias from the department when they were denied loans and programs throughout the 1980’s and ’90s. 

CNN provides more details on the U.S. District judge Paul Friedman’s historic ruling:

"I’m very pleased that this has resolved itself," U.S. District judge Paul Friedman said Friday. "It will provide relief to an awful lot of people."

In an opinion filed in the case, Friedman deemed fair a proposed settlement that provides a system of compensation for black farmers who joined a class-action lawsuit claiming that they can prove racial bias in decisions related to Agriculture Department programs and support.

"Historical discrimination cannot be undone," Friedman wrote, citing a basis to establish payments "for the broken promise to those African-American farmers and their descendants."

As many as 68,000 African-American farmers who filed between 1999 and 2008 would apply for one of two forms of relief: "Track A" for a qualified claimant would lead to an uncontested payout of $50,000 after taxes, and "Track B" could yield up to $250,000 for damages that are substantiated by documents and other evidence.

"So many farmers had ever given up hope that this would ever come to pass," said John Boyd, the head of the National Black Farmers Association.

Congress included $100 million for the claims in the 2008 farm bill and approved $1.15 billion in November 2010.