Friday, the U.S. Senate was expected to approve legislation to fund settlements between minority farmers and the Departments of Agriculture and Interior. The bill allocates $1.15 billion to settle the Pigford v. Glickman case, which was settled out of court 11 years ago. Qualified farmers could receive $50,000 dollars each to settle claims of racial bias. The same piece of legislation also provides $3.4 billion to fund a separate settlement reached with the Department of Interior for mishandling of a trust fund managed for Native Americans.
U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said the action marks a major milestone in USDA's efforts to turn the page on a sad chapter in our history. John Boyd, founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association said this is long overdue justice for black farmers. In July, the House approved a war supplemental bill that included money to pay for the settlements. At the time, however, the Senate failed to approve the measure.
Chairman of the Senate Ag Committee, Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., said while funding this settlement will not erase the anxiety and frustrations so many hard-working farmers experienced, it will help compensate their financial losses and finally begin laying the foundation in restoring their faith in the United States government. The bill must now be approved by the lame duck House before moving to President Obama's desk to be signed into law.