What is in this article?:
- Minority farmer lawsuits closer to final payments
- Response of the NBFA
- Following numerous attempts, the Senate passes funding for $1.25 billion Pigford settlement with the USDA.
- Pigford case brought by black farmers claiming long-time discrimination by the USDA.
- Approval of the legislation, which also includes funding for a settelment with native American farmers, is needed from the House.
Response of the NBFA
On Saturday morning, John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA), spoke with Farm Press. Among his comments:
When did you have an inkling this might go forward in the lame duck session? Were you confident a few weeks ago or was this ‘a go’ just in the last few days?
“I spent some time with (Senate majority leader) Harry Reid in Nevada” shortly before the recent elections. “I did a couple of events with him and he said he’d push it during lame duck. He did what he said.
“(Iowa) Sen. Charles Grassley was exceptional on the Republican side. He worked with other ‘R’s’ helping to get them on board.
“Grassley and Reid really worked together to get this done.
“There were bumps all the way to the end. It was very difficult, and I’m very glad to get out of the Senate, I don’t mind telling you.”
On the funding…
“The total (for the Pigford settlement) is $1.25 billion. There was $100 million (targeting Pigford) in the 2008 farm bill. That is added to the $1.15 billion in the measure” just passed by the Senate.
What are your expectations with this headed to the House?
“I’m hopeful we’ll get it done when Congress comes back after Thanksgiving. I’ve already had some very positive talks with (South Carolina) Rep. Jim Clyburn and others who have been leaders in the House on this.
“I think this will come up after Thanksgiving and we’re moving in the right direction.”
Will the Republicans gaining control of the House have any impact on the vote?
“If it reaches into January (when the new Congress is seated) it’ll be a whole other game, so to speak. At that point, they’d have to come in and reassign committee seats and figure out what their priorities will be.
“So, I have my eye set on doing this in the lame duck and won’t look towards January. Based on conversations I’ve had with those in the House, I feel positive we’ll be moving forward during the lame duck.”
On reactions from class members…
“I’ve been getting a lot of calls. The farmers are excited. Many had given up hope of this ever getting out of the Senate. Yesterday was the tenth time it was brought to the floor.
“This is a breath of fresh air. It’s justice for the black farmers who have just been waiting. Many of them died before seeing this day.”
The Pigford and Cobell settlements were together for the Senate vote. Did that give you pause or were you all for packaging them together?
“We picked up Cobell when it left the White House and there was supposed to be an emergency package with FEMA. … Those key items moved together.
“We were already coupled with Cobell in the House. … I’m a little more comfortable with the lay of the land in the House.
“I’m happy for the Indians, too. (Cobell) is a very old case.”
“During the last interview, I gave my word I’d not give up the fight until the end. … And I won’t until President Obama signs the bill. Hopefully that’s soon…
“Maybe this will be something for farmers to put under the tree. It won’t put them back in business but justice does come. When America is tested, it does the right thing – just not always in the timeframe we’d like.”