Finally. As many as 68,000 African-American farmers who were the victims of racial discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the 1980s and ’90s may start getting compensation from a $1.25 billion settlement, a federal judge has ruled.
The decision means black farmers who joined a class-action lawsuit claiming that they can prove racial bias in decisions related to Agriculture Department programs and support can apply for one of two forms of relief: One would lead to an uncontested payout of $50,000 after taxes, and another could yield up to $250,000 for damages that are substantiated by documents and other evidence.
“Historical discrimination cannot be undone,” U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman, who issued the decision, wrote, citing a basis to establish payments “for the broken promise to those African-American farmers and their descendants.”
Lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department and the plaintiffs stood before Friedman at a fairness hearing in September and said they were in agreement on the terms and conditions of the payout. The judge also heard from farmers who were against the proposal, including those who said they wanted to opt out and seek a higher level of damages than proposed.
President Obama said in a statement that the settlement “is another important step forward in addressing an unfortunate chapter in USDA’s civil rights history. This agreement will provide overdue relief and justice to African-American farmers and bring us closer to the ideals of freedom and equality that this country was founded on.”
The implementation of the settlement to redress racial bias against black farmers comes during the term of the nation’s first African-American president, a point not lost during Friday’s White House briefing with reporters.
Read more at CNN.
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