NAACP URGES U.S. CONGRESS TO PROVIDE FULL FUNDING IN PIGFORD II LAWSUIT SETTLEMENT
BILL COMING UP THIS WEEK IS THE LAST CHANCE TO FUND THE PIGFORD II SETTLEMENT BEFORE NOVEMBER ELECTIONS
Later this week the United States Congress is expected to pass the last funding bill of the year before they leave Washington, D.C. to go home to campaign for the November 2nd elections. This legislation, known as the “Continuing Resolution” or “CR” is necessary to keep the government open and is the last chance we will have for several months to get the Pigford II settlement funded.
In February of this year the US Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Justice announced a settlement to provide as many as 70,000 African American farmers, many of whom suffered blatant discrimination at the hands of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for decades, with cash damage awards and debt relief. This settlement is known as the Pigford II settlement. Sadly, to date the United States Congress has yet to appropriate the $1.25 billion necessary to fund Pigford II. These claims cannot even begin to be investigated, let alone settled, until after Congress has appropriated the funding. Funding for the Pigford II settlement had been approved by the US House on July 1, 2010, but the money was rejected by the U.S. Senate on June 22, 2010.
Senate leaders are also hoping to include $1.41 billion in the “CR” to provide for the Cobell settlement, which involves lost royalty funds flowing from the mismanagement of natural resources on Indian land by the U.S. Department of the Interior for more than a century.
There is an urgency to pass this appropriation to settle the class action lawsuits of African-American farmers and Native Americans. Many of the farmers who would qualify for monies under the settlement have waited as long as 10 years to be compensated; some have already died or lost their farms. After years of discriminatory treatment by USDA credit and program agencies, these farm families have already waited almost a decade for compensation for these well-established claims. It is time to allow these farmers to focus on the future, and move forward unencumbered by the racial discrimination of the past.