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For ‘Black Farmers’ spearhead, settlement’s OK is long overdue

A federal judge granted preliminary approval of the $1.25 billion class action settlement in the decades-old discrimination cases brought by black farmers.  A federal judge last week (May 13) granted preliminary approval of the $1.25 billion class action settlement in the decades-old discrimination cases brought by black farmers. Last December, President Obama signed the “Claims Remedy Act of 2010,” which provided $1.25 billion in funding for the black farmers late filers class action lawsuit.

 
 John Boyd

The driving force for the farmers has been John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association Statement.

Here are Boyd’s reflections on the Federal Court’s recent decision.

“I am pleased to see movement from the judge in this case. Black farmers have waited far too long for justice. They deserve to have their cases heard by a neutral arbitrator. This ruling signals one more step forward on the long march to justice. It has been an arduous and challenging journey.

“Since I began advocating for black farmers 26 years ago, nearly all of my mentors in the black farmers’ movement have passed away. I spent eight years pressing Congress for remedy for the nearly 80,000 late filers.

“In May 2008, Congress finally passed the black farmers’ bill, which provided $100 million and allowed the late filers’ cases to be heard on merit. Then-Sen, Obama was the lead sponsor for a provision including the black farmers in the late filers’ category as a part of the farm bill. Some conservative members of Congress defined the $100 million approved by Congress as a cap, leaving little to compensate black farmers.

“We worked for another two years to offset that obstacle to full fairness in these cases. In February 2009, the Obama Administration reached a settlement with the black farmers for $1.25 billion, which still required an Act of Congress to take effect. In pressing our case, I even drove my tractor, named ‘Justice,’ to Washington and launched a three-week protest until Congress approved the bill.

“Judge Paul Friedman’s approval is much welcomed news. I look forward to the day when claimants finally have the opportunity to have their claims determined on their merit. Fairness and opportunity – that’s all the farmers and those who attempted to farm have ever asked.”

(Source: NBFA Newsletter. For more information, visit www.blackfarmers.org.)

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