The House of Representatives surmounted the final hurdle to fund the Cobell and Pigford II discriminations settlements brought by Native Americans and African Americans on land misuse issues and USDA discrimination in the farm loan program.
Black farmers were awarded the monies 15 years ago and had to wait until final congressional approval this week for the payout.
Outgoing, House Majority Whip Congressman James Clyburn has mixed emotions about the passage saying the black farmers settlement bill is not “clean” as the black farmers are relegated to 50 thousand dollars each in discrimination awards and women and Hispanic farmers can get countless amounts of an award from the Judgment fund. He also feels some of the language placed in the bill could cause intimidation to black farmers. Clyburn feels there are discriminatory overtones. He sites intimidation and a wtich hunt during the upcoming arbitration process with the Inspector General. John Boyd head of the National Black Farmers Association says blacks have a tougher road to trod.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the bill does have another track- track B for those agrarians who feel they are owed more than 50 thousand dollars. Through track B, black farmers could make claims with a limit of 250 thousand dollars. Those farmers could be awarded an amount of 250 thousand dollars or less.
On Clyburns other concerns, Secretary Vilsack says, he “knows our Inspector General very well and there is not going to be a witch hunt of any kind nor should there be any intimidation associated with this.”
Visack contends the language in the bill comes from Republican Senators who would only sign the bill if certain items were included.
Meanwhile, President Obama praised the House passage in a written statement.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 30, 2010
Statement by the President on House Passage of the Claims Settlement Act of 2010
I am pleased that today, the House has joined the Senate in passing the Claims Settlement Act of 2010. This important legislation will fund the agreements reached in the Pigford II lawsuit, brought by African American farmers, and the Cobell lawsuit, brought by Native Americans over the management of Indian trust accounts and resources. I want to thank Attorney General Holder and Secretaries Salazar and Vilsack for all their work to reach this outcome, and I applaud Congress for acting in a bipartisan fashion to bring this painful chapter in our nation’s history to a close.
This bill also provides funding for settlements reached in four separate water rights suits brought by Native American tribes, and it represents a significant step forward in addressing the water needs of Indian Country. Yet, while today’s vote demonstrates important progress, we must remember that much work remains to be done. And my Administration will continue our efforts to resolve claims of past discrimination made by women and Hispanic farmers and others in a fair and timely manner.