Thursday, September 23, 2010

New legislation introduced to pay black farmers 1 billion they are owed

Sen. Blanche Lincoln announced today she'd joined other senators to introduce legislation to pay the more than $1 billion settlement to black farmers for discrimination by the Agriculture Department.

Here is her news release:

U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Senator Kay R. Hagan (D-NC) and Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) announced today that they will introduce a bill to fund the $1.15 billion settlement that black farmers reached with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack in February.

“The time is long overdue to fund the discrimination settlement for African American farmers who have experienced decades of injustice,” said Chairman Lincoln. “All farmers should receive equal access and treatment in the delivery of USDA’s programs and services and we must finally close this chapter of discrimination within USDA. While funding this settlement will not erase the anxiety and frustrations so many hard-working farmers experienced, it will help compensate their financial losses and finally begin laying the foundation in restoring their faith in the United States government.”

“We want to ensure black farmers in our country finally receive the justice they deserve,” said Hagan. “More than 4,000 African American farmers in North Carolina and over 75,000 nationwide have been discriminated against and denied just compensation for decades. Today, I join with my colleagues from Louisiana and Arkansas, Senators Landrieu and Lincoln, to introduce a bill to fund the settlement once and for all, and we are working to send this language to the President.”

“This injustice has gone on for far too long,” said Sen. Landrieu. “The U.S. Congress needs to make this right and the reality is that we are running out of options. That is why Senator Hagan, Senator Lincoln and I have introduced a stand alone bill today. We will try to attach this bill to any moving legislative vehicle in the Senate. But if the political environment is such that no bill is moving, Senate Leadership will need to call up this stand alone bill and debate it on its merits. I think that Senate Leadership is going to need to take a good, long look at that option.”

Lincoln, Hagan, and Landrieu announced that they plan to introduce the bill today. The legislation will ensure that African American farmers who were unfairly discriminated against when applying for loans, credit and other forms of financial help will receive the settlement to which they are entitled. The bill will also extend the statute of limitations on certain outstanding discrimination complaints at USDA. Lincoln and Hagan joined John Boyd, President of the National Black Farmers Association, at a press conference earlier today to highlight the need to fund the settlement.


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