Founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) [advocacy website] James Boyd, Jr. [official profile] called [press release] Tuesday for the US Senate [official website] to fund a settlement [JURIST report] in a discrimination case involving minority farmers. The request comes a month after the Senate failed to approve [press release; CNN report] over a billion dollars for a settlement between the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) [official website] and the black farmers. The US House of Representatives [official website] approved a measure in July that included money to fund the settlement, but the bill failed to pass through the Senate for a seventh time. President Barack Obama has expressed his support [USA Today report] for the settlement agreement between the NBFA and USDA.
The battle by the NBFA to receive an allocation of resources is over a decade old. In 2008, the NBFA brought a class action lawsuit [JURIST report] against the USDA, alleging on behalf of more than 800 black farmers that the USDA improperly discriminated against them. Many farmers were left out of the 1999 settlement [text, PDF; NALC backgrounder, PDF] after missing a filing deadline, and thousands more argued that the terms of the settlement were inadequate. After earlier accusations of unfair distribution of resources, the USDA created the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (ASCR) [official website] in 2003 to monitor compliance with civil rights laws and to help ensure equality in the administration of the USDA's many programs.