U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack have announced the successful resolution of the longstanding litigation known as Pigford II, which pitted African American Farmers against USDA over claimed discrimination in the administering of USDA programs.
Reaction to the settlement came quickly from the White House where President Obama said the Administration is dedicated to ensuring that federal agencies treat all our citizens fairly, and the settlement in the Pigford case reflects that commitment.
There is a sign that funding for the settlement will be forthcoming. The Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., said she is pleased that a settlement has been reached and that she looks forward to working with her colleagues in Congress to help provide the compensation owed to African American farmers who have been victims of discrimination.
The Pigford II settlement agreement, which is contingent on appropriation by Congress, will provide a total of $1.25 billion dollars to African American farmers who alleged that they suffered racial discrimination in USDA farm loan programs. Following the appropriation, class members may pursue their individual claims through a non-judicial claims process in front of a neutral arbitrator. Claimants who establish their credit-related claims will be entitled to receive up to $50,000 and debt relief.
A separate track may provide actual damages of up to $250,000 through a more rigorous process. The actual value of awards may be reduced based on the total amount of funds made available and the number of successful claims. A moratorium on foreclosures of most claimants' farms will be in place until after claimants have gone through the claims process. Payments to successful claimants may begin in the middle of 2011.