WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown released the following statement after passage of the Pigford settlement agreement for African American farmers who were denied assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture between 1983 and 1997.
“Finally, African American farmers will receive the compensation that they deserve,” Brown said. “With this agreement, the Senate provided funding relief to farmers who were denied equal access to loan programs. This settlement will bring justice to farmers who were discriminated against and ensure that this bigotry will never be repeated.”
For years, black farmers alleged that they were not receiving fair treatment when they applied to local U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offices for farm loans or assistance. These farmers contended that they were being denied farm loans or forced to wait longer for loan approval than were non-minority farmers. These allegations resulted in a class-action racial discrimination suit against the USDA, commonly known as the Pigford case, named after Timothy Pigford, a farmer from North Carolina.
In 1999, a settlement was reached in federal court that provided compensation to farmers, including 600 in Ohio, who claimed they had been discriminated against from 1983 to 1997. Concerns remained however, that many farmers who had been discriminated against did not have an opportunity to file complaints before the original Pigford case deadline. Recognizing that failure, a provision of the 2008 Farm Bill provided a right to file a claim for claims in federal court. The settlement reached by the Senate provides compensation for those claimants.
Brown was an original co-sponsor of the Pigford Claims Remedy Act along with President Barack Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA). The legislation would give each denied Pigford claim another chance at full determination. This February, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Eric Holder mandated that Congress appropriate the remaining funds for this settlement.