Black farmers to receive payouts in $1.2 billion from federal lawsuit settlement
A bittersweet victory decades later after experiencing discriminatory lending
After years of
protests and lawsuits, black farmers in the south will begin receiving
payments this week as a result of a $1.2 billion settlement in their
discrimination case against federal agriculture officials. About 18,000
farmers in total are expected to receive checks over the next few days.
This is the second round of funding for black farmers. Thousands
received payments in 1999 as part of a settlement in a class-action suit
over allegations of widespread discrimination by federal officials who
denied loans and other assistance to black farmers because of their
“After all these years and all the fighting, this is what it’s all
about,” says John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers
Association, which pushed Congress for the settlement. “It doesn’t take
away what the government has done to us, but for those who receive the
payments it will make a difference in their lives.”
About 40,000 black farmers filed claims in the $1.2 billion
settlement, which ended a discrimination case against the United States
Department of Agriculture. In 2010, President Obama signed the bill
authorizing compensation for discrimination in farm lending by federal
Black farmers will receive settlement payments of $62,500, including
$50,000 for the claim and $12,500 for taxes. Of the $1.2 billion, about
$91 million was approved for attorney fees.
“I am pleased this chapter of discrimination in the history of the
Department of Agriculture is closed and bureaucracy will no longer keep
these farmers from receiving their due justice,” says Democratic Rep.
Marcia Fudge of Ohio, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The payments could lead to an infusion of money back into farming,
adds Adell Brown Jr., vice chancellor for research at Southern
University Agricultural Research & Extension Center. The center has
worked with black farmers in Louisiana who filed claims in the first and
Many farmers who had filed claims have since died. Of the 18,000
claims approved, about 4,000 to 5,000 were estate claims. The National
Black Farmers Association is working with some families whose deceased
parents had filed claims.
“This is not a great trade-off by any means, but I think the funds
will make a difference,” says Boyd. “It’s a bittersweet victory.”