A Washington DC federal judge has granted final approval for a $1.25 billion settlement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a group of black farmers who alleged racial discrimination. This case is an outgrowth of the Pigford case of 1999, named after the lead Plaintiff, a black farmer from North Carolina. Congress included $100 million for the claims in the 2008 farm bill and approved $1.15 billion more last in November.
The 40,000 Plaintiffs in this class action allege that between 1981 and 1997, the Department of Agriculture ignored their complaints about local officials who denied them loans and other aid.
According to the New York Times, these claims will be processed through a court-appointed neutral party who will hopefully reach a final agreement shortly. This is expected to take a year, and Judge Paul L. Friedman who ok’d the settlement agreement, expects to award fees of $50.3 to $90.8 million among the class lawyers.
President Obama praised this settlement deal and called it “another important step forward in addressing an unfortunate chapter in (the United States Department of Agriculture)’s civil rights history.”