Thanks Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) for just getting out of the way of long-deferred and frankly, barely adequate justice for African-American & Native American farmers shafted by the government for decades. Jerk. Surely if we can find a way to finance a completely unnecessary war in Iraq, we can find a way to repay black farmers. For those of you who are unclear on what happened, here’s a quick summary of the Pigford case from good ole Wikipedia:

The lawsuit was filed in 1997 by Timothy Pigford, who was joined by 400 additional African American farmer plaintiffs. Dan Glickman, the Secretary of Agriculture, was the nominal defendant. The allegations were that the USDA treated black farmers unfairly when deciding to allocate price support loans, disaster payments, “farm ownership” loans, and operating loans, and that the USDA had completely failed to process subsequent complaints about racial discrimination.[1]

After the lawsuit was filed, Pigford requested blanket mediation to cover what was thought to be about 2,000 farmers who may have been discriminated against, but the U.S. Department of Justice opposed the mediation, saying that each case had to be investigated separately. As the case moved toward trial, the presiding judge certified as a class all black farmers who filed discrimination complaints against the USDA between 1983 and 1997. For more information on the case background. [3]

The plaintiffs settled with the government in 1999. Under the consent decree, all African American farmers would be paid a “virtually automatic” US$50,000 plus granted certain loan forgiveness and tax offsets. This process was called “Track A”.[2]

Alternatively, affected farmers could follow the “Track B” process, seeking a larger payment by presenting a greater amount of evidence — the legal standard in this case was to have a preponderance of evidence along with evidence of greater damages. To read a summary of Pigford v. Glickman. [4]

Just so we’re all clear, the black farmers won the case against the government 11 years ago, but only now has Congress finally made the funds available. I’m guessing quite a few black farms went under while waiting. This must be another example for Sarah Palin to cite on how America is always totally free, fair and equally treating of all its citizens! Seriously, if the abuse of black farmers hadn’t been blatant, would they each be getting 50 Gs? I don’t think so.

Courtesy of CNN:

The U.S. Senate is expected to approve $1.15 billion Friday to fund a settlement initally reached between the Agriculture Department and minority farmers more than a decade ago, according to Senate sources.

The 1997 Pigford v. Glickman case against the U.S. Agriculture Department was settled out of court 11 years ago. Under a federal judge’s terms dating to 1999, qualified farmers could receive $50,000 each to settle claims of racial bias.

“This is much long overdue justice for black farmers,” said John Boyd, founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association.

The Senate is also expected to clear — in the same piece of legislation — $3.4 billion to fund a separate settlement reached with the Department of Interior for mishandling of a trust fund managed for Native Americans.

I fervently hope this happens today. They really should have renamed it the Shirley Sherrod Bill.

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