Approval of $1.25 billion to compensate black farmers in a discrimination suit against the Department of Agriculture has been delayed again in the Senate — the second time this week.
Now legislators have been dismissed for a recess until Sept. 13; a deadline extension to fund the settlements is Aug. 13.
That is exactly what National Black Farmers Association John Boyd did not want to happen.
“If Congress heads to recess and doesn’t come back until after Labor Day that puts us back here again, trying to get this passed,” Boyd told Politic365 earlier this week.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle reportedly support the measure to pay farmers in the years-old case, but partisan disagreements over the federal deficit has held up the issue in the Senate, Boyd said.
The measure failed or been delayed in the Senate at least six times — a long, drawn-out battle that has incited anger and frustration for the farmers, Boyd said.
A federal court found in favor of the farmers in the lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture more than 10 years ago and more than $1 billion in debt relief and payments were awarded. The new settlement — known as Pigford II — will compensate thousands of farmers who missed the filing deadline.
“The time is long overdue to move beyond the USDA discriminatory past and begin the right the wrongs of African American (farmers) and what they’ve experienced,” said Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Nebraska Thursday.
Lincoln noted that many black farmers have died waiting for the issue to be resolved.
“If not today, when?” Lincoln asked during a presentation to the Senate. “When will we do this?”
Her question is one that the farmers want answered, too.
And to Boyd and other farmers, the whole situation is unfair.
“I think it’s horrible to play politics with a group of people who are poor, who don’t have the money to defend themselves, don’t have the money to lobby for themselves on Capitol Hill,” Boyd said in a previous interview.