Funding for Black Farmers Stalls in Senate

Funding for courtroom settlements for black and Native American farmers has stalled once again in the Senate. Despite a series of court rulings over the last 14 years, payments have stalled amidst questions of deficit spending. These lawsuits, which date back to the 1990s, involved widespread discrimination and misappropriation. The Native American case involves the misappropriation of royalty funds they were guaranteed for oil, gas, grazing, and timber rights. They maintain that the Interior Department had swindled them out of their monetary rights. The 300,000 Native Americans involved in the lawsuit would share the over $3 billion settlement.

African American farmers are involved in their own lawsuit, claiming widespread discrimination from local branches of the Agriculture Department regarding loan discrimination.

Funding these settlements is the latest victim of partisan politics in Washington. Democrats have accused Republicans of deliberately stalling resolving this issue to score political points. Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas stated, “I strongly support efforts to see Arkansas farmers who have faced discrimination receive the compensation they deserve. All farmers should receive equal access and treatment in the delivery of USDA’s programs and services. I am disappointed that for the sixth time this year, Republicans have blocked efforts to correct this injustice and close this chapter of discrimination within USDA.”

Meanwhile, John Boyd, head of the National Black Farmers Association, blamed both parties for the gridlock, stating, “It’s just partisan division, one party against another. It’s an embarrassment for the American people that they can’t get a bill passed that everybody supports.”