A decade old discrimination lawsuit has moved closer to final settlement. Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture sent notification to plaintiffs in the lawsuits that they may be entitled to receive a part of the $1.25 billion settlement. The class action lawsuit was begun in 1983. Led by Timothy Pigford, he and other African American farmers claimed that the USDA systematically discriminated against minority farmers.
The government has acquired funding for the settlement gradually. Over the last twenty years, only about $200 million was appropriated, leaving about $1.15 billion unaccounted for. In 2010, Congress tried to appropriate the rest of the funds only to be blocked by Republicans in the House and Senate who claimed to be worried about potential fraud and concerns over deficit spending. Despite Republican opposition, the bill was eventually passed and signed by President Obama.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack claimed that there were measures built into the bill to prevent fraud and that the money was need to repair relations between the USDA and minority farmers. While the settlement still needs final court approval, the notifications are a sign that the lawsuit has nearly been resolved.
African American farmers who have been discriminated against or who are the heirs of individuals who have been discriminated against will need to file a claim after receiving notice in order to receive a part of the settlement.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer