April 1, 2010
The settlement reached between the government and black farmers denied USDA funding and services included a target date of March 31. That date has now passed, but the issue remains very much alive.
The major remaining hurdle is for Congress to find a funding source or “offset” to allow it to provide the additional $1.15 billion needed for the settlement payouts. The lawsuit was settled at $1.25 billion, and Congress already provided $100 million toward the settlement as part of the 2008 Farm Bill. Alternatively, Congress could provide for an emergency spending designation for the settlement amount and eliminate the need to find an offset.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a statement on the 31st restating the government’s commitment to the settlement and to helping Congress find a funding vehicle.
An excellent summary of the background and current status of the issue and the lawsuit can be found in an op ed by Federation of Southern Cooperatives Executive Director Ralph Paige printed in the March 30 edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.