Last week, the Obama administration offered to settle a lawsuit brought by Latino and women farmers who claimed they were discriminated against by the USDA, according to reports.
The news that a $1.3 billion settlement could be on the way for the farmers came as Congress began debating a bill for a similar payout to black and Native American farmers, addressing separate lawsuits.
Latino and women farmers filed their suit against the USDA almost 10 years ago, the AP reports.
Stephen Hill, an attorney who represents some 12,000 Latino farmers, told the AP that it’s “disappointing that they have not seen fit to offer what we think is a just proposal. The administration still has a ways to go in order to treat Hispanic farmers and ranchers fairly, and on par with other victims of discrimination.”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has emphasized resolving a “sordid” chapter in the agency’s history, AP reported.
“We have made significant progress on addressing USDA’s civil rights record and look forward to providing substantial relief to Hispanic and women farmers in an expedited manner,” Vilsack said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives reportedly approved a jobs and tax bill that included $1.4 billion for the Native American settlement known as the Cobell suit and the $1.25 billion settlement for black farmers known as Pigford II.
The bill now has to go to the Senate, which has taken a recess for Memorial Day until June 7. The deadline for the Cobell lawsuit has been extended until June 15, the AP reported.
The deadline for the black farmers’ lawsuit is May 31.