Sen. Reid pushes for Pigford money but funding remains in doubt

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, July 28 – The battle continues over getting Senate approval for the $1.25 billion needed to fund the Pigford II USDA discrimination settlement with black farmers. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) met in his Senate office with National Black Farmers Association President John Boyd. Reid said he's working on including the Pigford funding as part of the Small Business Jobs bill which he plans to bring up for a Senate cloture vote Thursday.

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and John Boyd, President of the National Black Farmers Association,
representing plaintiffs in the Pigford settlement. Photo: Sen. Reid's office.

As of Wednesday evening, bets are that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (D-KY) will continue to unite his Republican ranks to block both the Small Business Jobs bill itself and the Pigford money. In repeated attempts to get the Pigford funding through the Senate, each time that the House has added the money to House bills, the Senate has stripped it out.

Pointing out that the courts have ruled in the black farmers' favor, Boyd insists that “It's time for the Senate to step up and do the right thing.” But he also acknowledges that getting the money approved in the settlement with USDA won't be easy because “We've never had one Republican vote in the Senate for the settlement.”

Reid commented Wednesday that “I know there are too many still suffering from treatment of the U.S. government and we have an obligation to make things right. We have not given up on passing this legislation, and I am working to include it in the Small Business Jobs bill.”

On February 18, 2010, the administration announced a $1.25 Billion settlement for Pigford II claims. This settlement provides relief for thousands of farmers who were not provided remedies in the initial class action racial discrimination suit in 1999 between the USDA and black farmers.

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