Black Farmers Settlement and the Pigford Case: Will They Finally Be Getting Their Due?
While the final amounts may vary, it is clear that those rallying for the Black farmers’ settlement to be, can almost rest assured that those long suffering laborers, many of whom have passed on, will finally receive the funds for a judgment they were awarded over a decade ago.
Regal Magazine reported earlier about the plight of the Black farmers’ settlement, including Black and Native American farmers, who were part of a judgment in the Pigford case in 1997.
At the time of our initial report, there was a public outcry to Congress to authorize funds for the Black farmers’ settlement before their full session ended. It did not happen.
Now, as the clock is ticking on the lame duck session and amid threats by Republicans to block all bills until the tax dispute is settled, it seems that there may finally be a paycheck in the works at the end of this shorter and intensive session.
According to CNN, the United States Senate approved a $1.15 billion measure in mid-November 2010 to fund the settlement that was decided in the 1997 Pigford v. Glickman case against the United States Department of Agriculture.
Black Enterprise put the settlement figure, as proposed by President Barack Obama in the FY 2010 budget, at $1.25 billion.
Early on, he has weighed in with his support of the Black farmers’ settlement stating that this was a situation that he had tried to help bring towards closure while he served in the U.S. Senate.
The parties who have been advocating, including the National Black Farmers Association, have stated that the amount that would be needed to compensate all of the remaining farmers who are eligible is closer to $3 billion.
Originally, the terms outlined by the federal judge in 1999 stated that qualified farmers would receive approximately $50,000 each to settle the racial bias claims that led to the lawsuit. However, the funds were not allocated at the time to distribute payments.
Whether the check equals $50,000 per farmer with a valid claim or more still remains to be determined as Congress continues to work out the details before this session ends.
The media, the Black press especially, has called attention to this issue and now it is at a pivotal point in the process. This renewed spotlight should focus on making sure that there is sufficient funding and adequate closure for all of the qualified farmers whose livelihoods have been drastically altered by the “waiting game” for this settlement.
Interestingly, the legislation for this settlement was approved unanimously which begs the question as to why it could not be passed sooner if both sides of the aisle were clearly in agreement that the Black farmers who won the judgment should be compensated.
We can only speculate about the mood of this Congress which is attempting to tackle many important issues and addressing the number one issue – the economy – during this lame duck session.
Historically, this is not the time that much serious business takes place in Congress, but the mood of the recent election has shown elected officials that each working day is an opportunity to best represent the interests of those who put them in office.
The interests of Black farmers are long overdue to be addressed.
Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.