Congressman Chabot's Remarks Concerning the Pigford Claims Remedy Act
Congressman Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati) today gave the following statement regarding the introduction of the Pigford Claims Remedy Act:
"I'd like to thank everyone for being here today as we reintroduce the Pigford Claims Remedy Act. I'd like to take a moment to thank the distinguished gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Bobby Scott, for his continued support on this issue. He has remained committed from the very beginning to ensuring that Congress responds to the needs of those farmers who have suffered injustices at the hands of USDA.
"I would also like to thank the distinguished Senator from Iowa, Mr. Grassley for his support of this bill both last Congress and now in the 110th Congress. He's been a strong advocate for all farmers during his time in the Senate and we appreciate his efforts to lead this bill through the Senate. I also would like to thank the distinguished gentleman from Illinois, Senator Obama for his interest and assistance on this issue. We're sending a strong message on both sides of the capitol about the importance of this bill.
"This bill is important to me for several reasons. First, it provides one small measure of justice for a group that has faced increasing hardships and barriers - including certain hardships created by the Federal agency that is charged with protecting the livelihood and prosperity of our Nation's farmers.
"This bill also represents an end to a journey that started almost three years ago, when as Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, we began examining the Pigford v. Glickman Consent Decree, which at the time was the nation's largest racial discrimination settlement. As a Subcommittee, we looked closely at whether the intent of the parties to the settlement was being fulfilled, whether the notice provisions set forth in the settlement were adequate, and whether USDA has taken steps to ensure that the civil rights of all farmers are protected.
Congressman Chabot introduces the Pigford Claims Remedy Act with Congressman Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-VA) , U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dr. John W. Boyd Jr.
"During these three hearings, we heard not only from a diverse group of experts and attorneys, but also from many farmers - from all parts of the country - who had been denied entry into the settlement. Many of these farmers were passionate enough to travel to Washington and Cincinnati at their own expense to watch all the hearings, wrote to their Congressmen, and wrote to me. This bill, in part, is a testament to their commitment. It also represents that we are a nation that values fairness and equal opportunity for all.
"I hope this bill represents a turning point. In fact, Congress opened the door to the Consent Decree in 1998 by waiving the statue of limitations, which, if left unaddressed, would have prevented the settlement from going forward. The Consent Decree was intended to provide a swift resolution for the claims of discrimination that had gone unaddressed for decades.
"Yet, in a sad and ironic twist, the process that was created to provide a forum for those whose claims had been shut out, has itself unfairly shut out more than 75,000 African American farmers who were denied the opportunity to have the merits of their claims judged.
"Our hearings revealed that more than 77,000 farmers who submitted late claim petitions were denied entry because of severely flawed notification provisions. As a result, these petitioners are left without any recourse to have their claims of discrimination heard on the merits. Whether or not any of these claimants will prevail on the merits is not the issue - the issue is that there should be a process to at least allow them the opportunity to make their case. This bill provides those individuals with that forum, within the constraints imposed by our Constitution.
"I hope that our colleagues on both sides of aisle understand the need for this bill and move it without delay."