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USDA Settles With Black Farmers

"WHAT THEY ARE SAYING:" USDA ANNOUNCES HISTORIC PIGFORD II SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

WASHINGTON, - Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the successful resolution of the longstanding litigation known as Pigford II. Here is what others are saying about today's settlement:

National Organizations

Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund - Ralph Paige, Executive Director: "We are pleased with the $1.25 billion settlement. It opens a new chapter in the relationship between USDA and black farmers, and shows Secretary Vilsack's and the Obama Administration's commitment to moving into a new era. Now we look forward to actually getting this money into farmers' hands. This will take some time, however, as Congress needs to appropriate the money, the court needs to approve the settlement, and class members actually need to submit their claims and have them adjudicated. The Federation of Southern Cooperatives and other farm groups look forward to working with the Obama administration, the Justice Department and Congress to assure an expeditious process in finally assisting these thousands of black farmers who have been treated unjustly."

Land Loss Prevention Project - Savonala Horne, Executive Director:

"The Land Loss Prevention Project, a non-profit law firm with over 25 years of providing legal services to rural farms and families in North Carolina, supports President Obama and Secretary Vilsack of the Department of Agriculture in their steadfast determination to redress civil rights wrongs and provide compensation for Pigford II litigants. Now is the time for justice to be done in our farm community."

NAACP - Hilary O. Shelton, Director of Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy:

"The NAACP applauds the USDA for taking this crucial step today to finally close what is a painful, but sadly all too pervasive, chapter in our Nation's history. We would like to commend President Obama, Secretary Vilsack, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Dr. Joe Leonard and others for their commitment to seeing that the U.S. Department of Agriculture fully address this significant injustice and allow all who were affected to seek remedy. The NAACP is now committed to partnering with the USDA and the Congress to try to see that the full $1.25 billion requested by President Obama to help resolve the Pigford claims in his FY 2011 budget proposal is fulfilled. We are further committed to working with the Administration and the Congress to try to level the playing field and to prevent future discrimination against America's farmers."

National Black Farmers Association - Dr. John Boyd, President:

"Today's announcement moves us an important step closer to a just resolution of the black farmers cases. President Obama, Secretary Vilsack and the Administration have shown leadership in getting us to this moment. Next week another Black farmer will lose his farm. Others are at risk of not living to see justice. These farmers have waited for years, and simply cannot wait any longer for final resolution."

Members of Congress

Congressman James E. Clyburn, House Majority Whip (SC):

"This settlement is a case where justice delayed will no longer be justice denied. I applaud the efforts of Secretary Vilsack to empower the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division to finally act on behalf of the thousands of black and minority farmers who were denied access to the Pigford settlement without just cause. I thank President Obama for his leadership on this issue and for requesting funds for the Pigford settlement recipients in this year's supplemental appropriations bill. And I especially want to thank my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus for keeping the focus on the plight of black farmers. History has taught us to never give up when fighting for what is right. What happened to these black farmers was wrong, and we now have the opportunity to make it right."

Congressional Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa L. DeLauro (CT):

"I am very pleased with today's settlement of so many of the claims from black farmers who have suffered for years from widespread discrimination at the hands of the USDA. It is long past time for an end to such hardships, and I urge the USDA to also work towards settling the similar claims brought forth by women, Hispanic, and other minority farmers. These groups have also struggled under the unfair practices of the USDA, and it is critical that their perseverance and hard work in overcoming a hostile environment receive some recognition."

Former Chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Tom Harkin (IA):

"I commend Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and the Obama Administration for reaching a settlement in the Pigford II cases by African American farmers, and thank those who continue to work to ensure that all Americans have equal access to, and just treatment in, USDA services and programs. Simply put, there is no place for discrimination in this country, especially within government agencies. While shaping the 2008 farm bill we were able to lay the foundation for this settlement, and I am very pleased to see another step toward addressing past wrongs and moving past this painful period in USDA's history."

Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee (CA):

"I am encouraged that today's settlement is an opportunity for black farmers who were denied the benefit of USDA loans and programs to begin to be made whole."

Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln (AK):

"I am pleased that a settlement has been reached between USDA and African American farmers. As Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I am committed to ensuring that every farmer in America receives equal access and treatment in the delivery of USDA's programs and services. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to help provide the compensation owed to African American farmers who have been victims of discrimination."

Congressman Bennie G. Thompson (MS):

"I applaud the Obama administration for including funding for the settlement of discrimination claims against the Department of Agriculture in the FY 2010 supplemental budget request. Over a decade after the settlement of the Pigford lawsuit, many individuals have still not received payments due to the inaction of the previous administration. The inclusion of this funding request sends a strong signal that the current administration is committed to recognizing past discriminatory acts by USDA against black farmers."

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Contact:
USDA Office of Communications
(202)720-4623



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