A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] gave final approval [opinion, PDF] Thursday to a $1.25 billion settlement for black farmers who were discriminated against by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) [official website] in disbursement loans and other forms of relief. This is the second round of settlements given to farmers who were discriminated against over a decade ago. The plaintiffs in this case missed the filing date in October 1999, so they were not included in a settlement made that year. After Congress passed a bill [text] in 2008 waiving the statute of limitations to give these farmers another chance to pursue their claims, the National Black Farmers Association filed suit on behalf of 800 black farmers. Federal Judge Paul Friedman issued final approval of the settlement Thursday:
Today, because of a Congress that was willing to once again waive the statute of limitations and to appropriate $1.25 billion to help further redress the historic discrimination against African-American farmers, the Court is pleased to approve the settlement agreement proposed by the Moving Plaintiffs, and endorsed by the United States, a fair, reasonable, and adequate.US Attorney General Eric Holder and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack welcomed the settlement [press release] as an "important step to ensure some level of justice for black farmers and ranchers who faced discrimination when trying to obtain services from USDA."
The farmers faced many procedural challenges over the past 12 years in pursuing their cases before the settlement was finally approved by the Senate last November and signed into law [JURIST reports] by President Barack Obama. The settlement was reached [JURIST report] with the USDA in February 2010, but the Senate failed seven times [JURIST report] to fund it. In May 2008, then-president George W. Bush vetoed a bill [JURIST report] which would have allowed the farmers to file suit after missing the original filing deadline. A month later, Congress voted to override [JURIST report] this veto, and the bill passed.