After many years of waiting, America's African American farmers will finally receive the compensation they have fought so long to receive.
Federal judge Paul Friedman approved the $1.2 billion settlement for African American farmers late Thursday, calling it "fair, reasonable, and adequate".
Under a federal judge's terms, dated in 1999, qualified farmers could receive $50,000 each to settle the claims of racial bias.
John Boyd, farmer and founder of BlackFarmers.org, has been in the forefront of this battle, having been on many TV and radio shows, and on Capitol Hill (see our coverage here) to bring the plight of America's Black farmers to the national stage.
Boyd called the historic announcement "vindication and justice".
Boyd pointed out that many African American farmers died and others lost land waiting for Congress, (specifically Tom Coburn) to make a decision on the case.
Senator Harry Reid, along with other members of Congress (Bobby Scott, John Conyers, and Kay Hagan) who worked to see that justice was upheld said, "The agreement that we reached shows what can happen when Democrats and Republicans come together to do the right thing."
The bill (Claims Settlement Act of 2010) also provides funding for settlements reached in four separate water rights suits brought by Native American tribes, as well as represents a significant step forward in addressing the water needs of Indian Country.
The USDA has several other claims that must be paid, not just to Black farmers, but Indian (Cobell lawsuit) and Latino farmers as well.
The president, earlier this year, said his administration will continue its efforts to "resolve claims of past discrimination made by women and Hispanic farmers, and others, in a fair and timely manner."
This week the president remarked on Friedman's ruling.
“The U.S. District Court’s approval of the settlement between the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and plaintiffs in the Pigford II class action lawsuit 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. I especially want to recognize the efforts of Secretary Vilsack and Attorney General Holder, without whom this settlement would not have been reached", said President Obama on the court approved settlement.
In 1995, Boyd founded the National Black Farmers Association after encountering the US Department of Agriculture's discriminatory practices first-hand and meeting many more black farmers who shared this experience. Boyd soon led NBFA members in a march on the White House. He went on to meet with President Clinton and to testify before Congress. The plight of black farmers had caught the nation's attention, but Boyd's pursuit of justice continues to this day