Congressman David Scott praised the passage of legislation that would provide funding to settle African American farmers' and Native Americans' lawsuits against the federal government. The bill (H.R. 4783) contains funding to implement the settlements of the Pigford class action lawsuit involving past discrimination against black farmers by the Agriculture Department and the Cobell class action lawsuit involving funds for American Indians mismanaged by the Interior Department.
"I am pleased that Congress will finally provide funding for settlement of both the Pigford and Cobell class action lawsuits, Congressman Scott said. "This legislation is a major step towards providing justice for thousands of black farmers who were denied the same access to farm support programs as other farmers. The disparate treatment of this class of farmers bankrupted many family farms in Georgia and held back a piece of the American dream for rural families. After decades of lawsuits and appeals, these Americans can finally find some closure."
H.R. 4783, Claims Resolution Act, has passed Congress and will now be sent to the President for signing into law. To ensure that payments are properly awarded, the legislation requires reviews by the Comptroller General and USDA's Inspector General as well as a requirement that the court approve payments.
In 1999, a federal judge approved a settlement agreement in a class action lawsuit (Pigford v. Glickman) filed by African American farmers alleging that the Agriculture Department discriminated against black farmers who applied for loans or other assistance. Under that settlement, black farmers who farmed between 1981 and 1996 and who filed a complaint against the department by July 1, 1997, were eligible to seek monetary compensation from the government. The settlement, however, was widely criticized because tens of thousands of African American farmers who filed claims later than the July 1997 cutoff date were denied inclusion in the class to be eligible for compensation.