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Justice Department Contends Settlement For Black Farmers Nears

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The Justice Department has notified the White House that a settlement is near for black farmers discriminated against by the United States Department of Agriculture. The plaintiffs in this case 80 to 90 thousand black farmers. The issue dates back to the late 1990's and the Clinton administration.

President Obama's 2011 budget proposal includes 1.2 billion dollars in settlement monies for the black agrarians. If approved by congress, it would mark the second time federal funds were allocated for the discrimination award for black farmers in a presidential budget proposal. In the past, President George W. Bush proposed the monies, but, congress cut the farmers hoped for compensation. Rob Nabors, Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget says, "The President [Obama] put forward a proposal last year; and, it is continued in this year's budget where we have a proposed settlement of approximately 1.2 billion dollars. The Department of Justice is currently negotiating the settlement.

"It is about ensuring Justice is done. It is important in this situation," contends Robert Gibbs White House Press Secretary.

John Boyd, head of the National Black Farmers Association contends, "It has been very frustrating for the black farmers. He is hopeful this latest settlement offer, makes it into the black farmers hands after years of promises.

"Nearly 80 to 90 thousand black farmers are waiting for justice and they are getting older everyday and they are dying everyday", says Boyd.

In 1999, 14 thousand black farmers were awarded a settlement from the original lawsuit. Boyd reminds that those farmers received "62,500 a piece totaling over a billion dollars." Farmers who did not know about that initial suit were able to file claims against the United States Department of Agriculture. Now, tens of thousands of black farmers are possibly in line for the federal monies to correct the wrongs by the Agriculture Department.

Boyd contends, "Not all those are going to get their money. Those farmers who are eligible will get there money. Those who are not, will get closure."

Boyd says, the issues originated from a "lawsuit in 97 [1997] for discrimination in farm lending programs and subsidies (farm service agency USDA). The National Black Farmers Association allowed for late file lawsuits in 2008." He also believes the only way farmers will get their overdue settlement monies is if President Obama and the Democrats in Congress fight for the budget item approval.