Lincoln urges settlement of black farmers discrimination case

Senate Agriculture Chairman Blanche Lincoln, (D-Ark.) requested Friday an emergency designation of $1.25 billion to compensate black farmers who have been victims of discrimination. 

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D-Nev.), Lincoln said she "strongly support efforts to include emergency funding needed to execute the administration’s settlement agreement in the fiscal year 2011 supplemental appropriations bill."  

The long-standing case, known as Pigford II, first settled during the Clinton administration, but never resolved, requires the Agriculture Department to compensate black farmers who say they faced discrimination by the Farm Service agency lending program between 1981 and 1996.

Farmers said they lacked access to much-needed capital to operate their farms. There is $100 million included in the 2008 Farm Bill and the Obama administration has requested an additional $1.15 billion for the settlement. 

A new agreement was reached in February and a settlement is in effect until May 30. 

"Every farmer in America should receive equal access and treatment in the delivery of USDA's programs and services," Lincoln said in a release. "Congress should move swiftly to provide the funding necessary to fulfill the settlement agreement and close this chapter on discrimination within USDA." 

Without closure on the issue, Lincoln said it's difficult to move forward on other policy and outreach work related to minority farmers and land owners.