U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and U.S. Representatives Artur Davis (D-AL), Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), G. K. Butterfield (D-NC), Jim Clyburn (D-SC), and Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-VA) today sent the following letter to the Senate and House Agriculture Committees' Chairmen and Ranking Members, requesting that they include the Pigford settlement provisions in Farm Bill Conference Report.
The text of the letter is below:
January 30, 2008
Dear Chairmen and Ranking Members:
We write as supporters of a recent Congressional Black Caucus letter listing the CBC's priorities for the upcoming conference agreement on H.R. 2419, the Farm, Nutrition and Bioenergy Act. However, as you work to finalize the conference report to H.R. 2419, we want to indicate our particular support for the provisions included by both the House and the Senate versions ensuring that farmers who were denied review of their claims under the Pigford case can obtain a court determination on the merits of their cases.
As you know, 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. Thousands of claims were denied for various reasons, but due to a lack of notice, a large percentage of filers were denied review based on late filings.
These provisions will provide Pigford claimants who were denied a review on the merits with a fair review of their claims; require the Secretary of Agriculture to provide petitioners with information regarding USDA loan data, which was too often denied in the Pigford claims process; and protect Pigford claimants from foreclosure on loans during the claims process.
We have worked in the House and Senate to secure these important provisions and appreciate your support for including this provision in your respective chamber's version of the farm bill. We urge that the provisions be included in the final conference report. We know you agree that the Pigford settlement was an important first step in righting nearly two decades of discrimination by the USDA - - and that this provision will continue that work.
Bennie G. Thompson
G. K. Butterfield
Robert C. "Bobby" Scott