Headlines are saying that “Black Farmers Are Getting Paid” because President Barack Obama has signed the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 that authorizes $1.15 billion to settle claims Black farmers won initially from the US Department of Agriculture over a decade ago. Before we all trumpet “success and justice” in this matter, take a look at how we got to here.
In 1997, a Black North Carolina farmer named Timothy Pigford filed a claim against the government for reparations. Four hundred Black farmers joined Pigford’s suit and claimed USDA discrimination against them on the basis of race. Then-Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman found that 205 of the 116,261 loan and crop payments issued by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency involved the possibilities of racial discrimination. On January 4, 1999, Judge Paul Friedman signed a consent decree that awarded damages to Blacks who farmed, or tried to farm, between January 1981 and December 1996 and had applied for USDA aid. Claimants were supposed to file by September 15th 2000, but around 73,800 did not.