Friday, October 05, 2007

Grassley, Obama Team Up to Aid African American Farmers

There aren't very many African-American farmers in Iowa.
Nonetheless, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley is leading a call to help thousands of them in southern states who for years were discriminated against as they tried to participate in federal agriculture loan programs.
And Grassley, a Republican, has a key Democratic senator as an ally in his efforts: Barack Obama.
Grassley is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee that is slowly crafting its version of the 2007 Farm Bill, and he has called on committee leadership this week to include legislation in the bill that would help African-American farmers who were denied entry into the Pigford v. Glickman settlement.
That 1999 settlement ended a discrimination lawsuit between African-American farmers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But years later the issue is not resolved. As many as 22,000 farmers filed claims in the Pigford settlement, and about 15,000 of them received compensation. But Grassley stated that as many as 75,000 did not have their claims heard because of a filing deadline mistake. A September article in the Hill reported that about $730 million has been paid out in claims as a result of the Pigford settlement.
In a press release this week, Grassley said that black farmers in the South should get fair consideration of their case, "and up to this point, the Department of Agriculture hasn't allowed it to happen."
The farm bill passed by the House of Representatives in July includes a provision that would allow a new review to individuals whose Pigford settlement claims were denied. Grassley and Obama have been pushing for similar legislation in the Senate bill.
"I had hoped we could settle this without legislation, but enough is enough," said Grassley. "If we don't pass legislation thousands of victims of discrimination continue to be denied an opportunity to even have their claims heard."
Grassley and Obama's bill, named the Pigford Claims Remedy Act of 2007, is similar to the House-passed language introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio.
Grassley's letter this week to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and ranking member Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., states that there is "more than enough in funding to provide a robust legislative fix to the problems with the Pigford claims process."

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