Senate Pulls Money From Black Farmers

The funds would have settled lawsuits against the USDA for racial discrimination.

By Jamilah King Jul 30, 2010

[[UPDATE 6:55pm EST]] On a conference call earlier today, John Boyd, Jr., president of the National Black Farmers Association, announced that that Senate will vote on a stand-alone authorizing funds for settlement claims.

To clarify, last week the Senate struck down a supplemental war spending bill, which included money for the black farmers’ settlement and another claim made by Native American farmers.  They then unanimously passed a revised version of the bill, which is set for a vote on Monday.

It’s a last minute effort to resolve the issue before Congress goes on recess.

Thanks reader Ashleyist.


Remember that $1.25 billion dollar settlement President Obama announced back in February for black farmers discriminated against by the USDA? It’s gone, according to Talking Points Memo.

An estimated 70,000 black farmers stood to gain from the settlement.

But last week the Senate quietly voted to strip funding for the case, known as the Pigford II settlement. The move came on the heels of the Shirley Sherrod scandal, as conservative opposition to the settlement grew after conservative lawmakers learned that a farm collective founded by Sherrod and her husband was set to receive $13 million from the case.

"I hoped that tonight the Senate could finally right a wrong that has been left unresolved for far too long. But Republicans stood in the way," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement.

"As recent events have reminded us, the fact that justice and fairness were denied to black farmers for so many years continues to have ramifications today. … Republicans should be held accountable for standing in the way of justice for those affected."

According to Talking Points Memo, part of the Pigford Settlement offered $50,000, on top of loan forgiveness and tax offsets, to eligible black farmers who had complained of discrimination since 1983. Sherrod and her husband were two of 170 plaintiffs who fought much larger settlements.

We’ve reported before on the long journey leading up the announcement in February, and this is just the most recent instance of the U.S. government failing to deliver. Back in 1999, black farmers won one of the largest civil rights settlements in U.S. history in another class-action lawsuit. Over a decade later, the $2.3 billion settlement has still yet to be paid in full.