Senate Passes Compensation Bill for African-American Farmers and American Indians
November 24, 2010 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
On Friday, the Senate approved a nearly $4.6 billion settlement for African-American farmers and American Indians who filed claims against the federal government more than a decade ago.
The Pigford II settlement included nearly $1.2 billion for 70,000 to 80,000 African-American farmers who faced discrimination in the awarding of loans and aid by the Department of Agriculture (USDA). Timothy Pigford, a black farmer from North Carolina, was the original plaintiff in the lawsuit, which resulted in a payment of more than $1 billion to 16,000 farmers, many of whom received approximately $50,000. The current bill has been held up in the Senate for months because of a disagreement between the House and Senate on how to fund the bill.
"The Department of Agriculture has admitted that discrimination occurred," Senator Chuck Grassley, R. Iowa, said in a statement. "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."
The nearly $3.4 billion settlement for Cobell v Salazar was the culmination of more than 13 years of litigation in which almost 30,000 American Indians claimed they did not receive royalties from the Department of Interior for things such as oil, grass, grazing and timber. It will provide a $1.4 billion trust fund and a $2 billion fund for the federal government to repurchase tribal lands purchased from individuals since the late 19th century.
"The passage of the Cobell Settlement in the Senate brings tribal nations and the federal government one step closer to settling this historical injustice," said Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians
Both measures are awaiting approval by the House. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is working to bring justice to Hispanic and women farmers who have also filed claims of discrimination against the USDA.