Obama Bill to Help Black Farmers Passed Agriculture Committee
U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today released the following statement after the Senate Agriculture Committee accepted his legislation to expand discrimination compensation to thousands of black farmers under the Pigford settlement into the Farm Bill. The Obama bill - the Pigford Claims Remedy Act of 2007 - would allow certain previously denied farmers an opportunity to re-file their settlement claims and have them reviewed on their merits. In 1999, the USDA settled a class action lawsuit with African American farmers, and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia approved the settlement, which allowed black farmers to file claims against the USDA for failing to respond to racial discrimination complaints between 1983 and 1997. However, the USDA has denied thousands of claims for various reasons.
On October 5, 2007, Obama was joined by House and Senate colleagues to call on President Bush to investigate allegations that the USDA had improperly lobbied against legislation that would compensate black farmers who were victims of discrimination. Earlier this year, Obama also called on Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns to examine these allegations.
The statement is below:
"For far too long, this country's hardworking black farmers were disenfranchised and discriminated against by our own government. And the Pigford settlement was an important first step in righting nearly two decades of discrimination by the USDA. But even after the settlement and a concerted effort by the USDA, thousands of farmers continued to be denied their deserved compensation.
"I am proud Chairman Harkin and the Agriculture Committee stood alongside these victims of discrimination by accepting my legislation to ensure thousands of farmers will have another opportunity to have their claims reviewed under the Pigford settlement. It is this Congress' moral responsibility to publicly acknowledge the impact on black farmers and move this important bill forward."