Senate approves funding for Pigford and Cobell settlements<
By Stewart Doan
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
Washington, Nov. 22 -The U.S. Senate, by unanimous consent, on Friday approved $4.6 billion to fund age-old claims of discrimination filed by Black farmers and American Indians.
The Claims Resolution Act of 2010 resolves claims against the government related to the Cobell class action lawsuit, the Pigford class action lawsuit, as well as tribal water rights claims for the White Mountain Apache, Crow, Taos Pueblo, and Aamodt Tribes. The legislation is fully paid for.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that the Senate's “bold step” to finance the black farmers' discrimination settlement “marks a major milestone in USDA's efforts to turn the page on a sad chapter in our history.”
Sen. Charles Grassley, who introduced legislation in 2007 to help Black farmers have their claims heard and pressed for it to be included in the 2008 farm bill, says the Pigford II settlement includes several substantial changes from Pigford I in order to better fight fraud.
“Changes have been made to the settlement agreement that will enhance the Department's ability to fight fraud including requiring adjudicators to be a truly neutral party; allowing that neutral adjudicator to ask the claimant for additional documentation if he or she suspects any fraud; requiring the claimants' attorneys to certify that there is evidentiary support for the claims; and requiring the Office of Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office to evaluate the Department's internal controls and audit the process in adjudicating the claims,” he said in a statement.
“The Department of Agriculture has admitted that discrimination occurred. We are obligated to do our best in getting those who deserve it, some relief. This is a chance for people who believe they were wronged to show their case before a neutral party and have it judged on the merits. It's time to give justice to these claimants who were previously left out, and move forward into a new era of civil rights at the Department of Agriculture.”
The U.S. House of Representatives must still approve the funding before the plaintiffs can receive cash payments and debt relief. Stewart Doan talked to National Black Farmers Association President John Boyd shortly after the vote.
USDA's Pigford case: More claims than Black farmers GOP lawmakers clash with Agriculture Sec. Vilsack over Pigford payments to black farmers, charging 'massive fraud' To return to the News Index page, click: www.agri-pulse.com #30
USDA's Pigford case: More claims than Black farmers
GOP lawmakers clash with Agriculture Sec. Vilsack over Pigford payments to black farmers, charging 'massive fraud'
To return to the News Index page, click: www.agri-pulse.com