WASHINGTON, October 28, 2011– The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia approved a $1.15 billion settlement in the class action suit filed by black farmers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Attorney General Eric Holder and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack released the following statements on the approval of the historic Pigford II settlement:
"This settlement allows the Department of Agriculture and African-American farmers to focus on the future, and brings us one step closer to giving these farmers a chance to have their claims heard," said Attorney General Holder. "Accomplishing this settlement has been a top priority of this Administration and I am pleased that the court has approved it."
"Since my first day at USDA, I made it a priority to treat all Americans with respect and dignity and to ensure equal access to our programs. Court approval of the Pigford settlement is another important step to ensure some level of justice for black farmers and ranchers who faced discrimination when trying to obtain services from USDA," said Secretary Vilsack. "President Obama, Attorney General Holder and I are thrilled by the court's approval so we can continue turning the page on this sad chapter in USDA history. In the months and years ahead, we will not stop working to move the Department into a new era as a model employer and premier service provider for all Americans regardless of race, ethnicity or gender."
On Feb.18, 2010, USDA and the U.S. Department of Justice announced an agreement with African-American farmers to settle the Pigford II litigation for $1.25 billion. Congress passed the Claims Settlement Act that funded the settlement in November 2010, and the bill was signed by President Obama in December 2010. The bill that passed the Senate and House included strong protections against waste, fraud and abuse to ensure integrity of the claims process. The claims process will soon be established and announced for individuals who may have faced discrimination.
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