Update: Pigford Settlement Letter Sent to Senate
September 28th, 2010
On Monday, September 27, the Network of Black Farm Groups and Advocates delivered a letter to all Senators urging “immediate action” regarding the passage of a measure providing funding for the settlement of Pigford vs. Vilsack, a class-action lawsuit filed by Black farmers against USDA more than a decade ago.
The current measure, which has been passed by the House, calls for $1.25 billion to fund discrimination claims that were unresolved in the 1999 settlement, known as Pigford I, which paid about $1 billion in claims to 16,000 farmers.
It is now up to the Senate to find a bill to which the Pigford II measure can be attached, and to secure this long-overdue settlement either before the fall recess or after the November general elections. Discussions are underway on a variety of possible budget cuts or revenue raisers that could offset the cost of the USDA settlement as well as a Native American discrimination settlement with the Department of the Interior.
USDA and the Department of Justice announced the $1.25-billion settlement back in February, and despite President Obama calling the settlement “a just settlement” and a “priority” earlier this month, Congress has yet to bring this issue to a close.
The letter submitted Monday included a long list of organizations supporting passage of the measure, including NSAC and 11 NSAC member organizations. It will hopefully become clear within the next few days what action if any the Senate plans take regarding the measure, so keep an eye out for further updates.