Friday, October 28, 2011

President Obama's Statement On Court Approval Of Pigford II Settlement

$1.5 billion settlement from Claims Resolution Act of 2010 is certified in US District Court; Holder, Vilsack statements after the jump...
President Obama on Friday afternoon issued a statement hailing Thursday's US District Court approval of the $1.5 billion Pigford II settlement as "another important step forward in addressing an unfortunate chapter in USDA’s civil rights history." The settlement for the longstanding, highly contentious racial bias case brought by black farmers against the US Department of Agriculture was included in the Claims Resolution Act of 2010, which President Obama signed into law on Dec. 8, 2010. Before then, in 2009 and 2010, black farmers had held a series of rallies around the US demanding settlement, including in Washington, DC, where they gathered in front of the USDA headquarters and demanded justice. (Above: The President, surrounded by lawmakers and Cabinet Secretaries during the Oval Office signing ceremony for the Act)

Late on Thursday, Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a motion to certify and approve the settlement for Pigford II, writing in his decision that it is "fair, reasonable, and adequate" as a way to "further redress the historic discrimination against African-American farmers."

"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," President Obama said. "I especially want to recognize the efforts of Secretary Vilsack and Attorney General Holder, without whom this settlement would not have been reached."

In Pigford I, the original suit brought by black farmers against USDA, the farmers accused the Department of institutional racism, land grabbing, and denying them the same benefits offered to their white counterparts, especially in financial services. The suit was settled, but Pigford II was filed as a continuation of the cause, and created as a class action suit for farmers who had been "locked out" of Pigford I.

"This settlement is the product of extraordinary efforts by private litigants and their counsel, by the Congress, and by the executive branch," Friedman wrote. "The court joins all of those parties in hoping that it will bring class members the relief to which they are entitled."

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Eric Holder today both issued statements about the settlement.

“This settlement allows the Department of Agriculture and African-American farmers to focus on the future, and brings us one step closer to giving these farmers a chance to have their claims heard,” Holder said. “Accomplishing this settlement has been a top priority of this Administration and I am pleased that the court has approved it.”

“President Obama, Attorney General Holder and I are thrilled by the court’s approval so we can continue turning the page on this sad chapter in USDA history," Vilsack said. “Court approval of the Pigford settlement is another important step to ensure some level of justice for black farmers and ranchers who faced discrimination when trying to obtain services from USDA."

"In the months and years ahead, we will not stop working to move the department into a new era as a model employer and premier service provider for all Americans regardless of race, ethnicity or gender.”

Under the Pigford II settlement, eligible black farmers will receive about $50,000 in compensation. Black farmer claimants must have farmed or attempted to farm between 1981 and 1986, have filed a discrimination complaint before July 1, 1987, and have filed a claim after the deadline in the original settlement, Pigford I.

Related: President Obama's condolence statement for Elouise Cobell, lead plaintiff in the Cobell suit, who passed away earlier this month. The settlement of the Cobell suit, for American Indian plaintiffs, was also included in the Claims Resolution Act of 2010.

*Photo by Chuck Kennedy/White House

No comments:

Post a Comment