• 19Feb

    USDA Press Release No. 0072.10

    Contact: USDA Office of Communications (202)720-4623; U.S. Dept of Justice Office of Communications (202) 514-2007


    AUDIO: Media Briefing

    WASHINGTON, Feb. 18, 2010 – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the successful resolution of the longstanding litigation known as Pigford II. The settlement agreement reached today, which is contingent on appropriation by Congress, will provide a total of $1.25 billion to African American farmers who alleged that they suffered racial discrimination in USDA farm loan programs. The settlement sets up a non-judicial claims process through which individual farmers may demonstrate their entitlement to cash damages awards and debt relief.

    Below is a statement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack:

    “USDA has made it a top priority to ensure all farmers are treated fairly and equally. We have worked hard to address USDA’s checkered past so we can get to the business of helping farmers succeed. The agreement reached today is an important milestone in putting these discriminatory claims behind us for good and in achieving finality for this group of farmers with longstanding grievances.

    “Because this Administration firmly believed that a full and final class-wide settlement was possible, the Administration requested $1.15 billion in the 2010 budget, on top of the $100 million already provided by Congress, to facilitate a settlement. I now urge Congress to provide the funding necessary to ensure that that these farmers and USDA can close this sad chapter and move on. .

    “As I testified before Congress during my confirmation hearings last year, the USDA under the Obama Administration has made civil rights a top priority, which is why we are working to implement a comprehensive program to take definitive action to move USDA into a new era as a model employer and premier service provider.”

    Below is a statement from Attorney General Eric Holder:

    “Bringing this litigation to a close has been a priority for this Administration. With the settlement announced today, USDA and the African American farmers who brought this litigation can move on to focus on their future. The plaintiffs can move forward and have their claims heard – with the federal government standing not as an adversary, but as a partner.”

    In 1999, the USDA entered into a consent agreement with black farmers in which the agency agreed to pay farmers for past discrimination in lending and other USDA programs. Thousands of claims have been adjudicated, but thousands of other claims were not considered on their merits because the affected farmers submitted their claims after the settlement claims deadline.

    To address the remaining claims, Congress provided these farmers another avenue for restitution in the 2008 Farm Bill by providing a right to file a claim in federal court. The total amount offered by the federal government in the agreement announced today, $1.25 billion, includes the $100 million appropriated by Congress in Section 14012 of the Farm Bill.

    Last May, President Obama announced his plans to include settlement funds for black farmers in the FY 2010 budget to bring closure to their long-standing litigation against the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    The settlement is contingent on Congress appropriating the $1.15 billion that the President requested. Following the appropriation, class members may pursue their individual claims through a non-judicial claims process in front of a neutral arbitrator. Claimants who establish their credit-related claims will be entitled to receive up to $50,000 and debt relief. A separate track may provide actual damages of up to $250,000 through a more rigorous process. The actual value of awards may be reduced based on the total amount of funds made available and the number of successful claims.

    A moratorium on foreclosures of most claimants’ farms will be in place until after claimants have gone through the claims process or the Secretary is notified that a claim has been denied.The claims process agreed to by the parties may provide payments to successful claimants beginning in the middle fo 2011.

    Ensuring equitable treatment of all USDA employees and clients is a top priority for Secretary Vilsack. He has issued a clear policy and a comprehensive plan to improve USDA’s record on Civil Rights and made it clear to all employees that discrimination of any form will not be tolerated at USDA. Some of the actions taken to transform USDA into a new era as a model employer and premier service provider include:

    * USDA revamped the program civil rights complaints system to improve the complaint process. For the first time since 1997, USDA now has investigators on staff to do the field work needed to investigate complaints.

    * After a competitive bidding process, USDA has hired outside, private firm to do an independent external analysis of the department’s service delivery programs to identify problem areas and fixes. The firm will consider programs at USDA to identify barriers to equal and fair access for all USDA customers.

    * In April, USDA suspended all foreclosures in the Farm Service Agency’s loan program for 90 days to provide an opportunity to review loans that could have been related to discriminatory conduct.

    * USDA’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights has initiated a series of unprecedented civil rights trainings for USDA field leadership teams and required trainings for all political appointees and senior departmental leadership.

    * To try and resolve internal disputes and conflicts early and to enhance the use of alternative dispute resolution at USDA, the department is also establishing a congressionally mandated Ombudsman office to improve dispute resolution efforts.

26 Responses

  • Dirty Girl Gardening Says:

    Great info… thanks! Good links, too.

  • uberVU - social comments Says:

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by licorous: RT @BeginningFarmer USDA Settles with Black Farmers http://snipurl.com/ufef5

  • Lisa Says:

    Is this why the White House forced USDA official Shirley Sherrod to resign so quickly in July 2010?

  • Taylor Says:

    My guess is that it probably wasn’t the main factor. But it may have played some role. The Pigford issue in and of itself is so complex that I am incapable of providing you with a succinct summary of everything that may be involved within this forum. But you may feel free to contact me privately to discuss it.

  • Tweets that mention USDA Announces Black Farmer Settlement of $1.2 Billion | Beginning Farmers -- Topsy.com Says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andi Silver and Philip Wade, Lisa. Lisa said: Is this Feb. settlement w/ black farmers why WH forced USDA offcl Shirley Sherrod to resign so quickly? ~ http://is.gd/dAEjZ #tcot [...]

  • Mr Suane B. Huff Says:

    I would like to know if I can still get in on the Law suit. The reason I’m late is because I’ve just really gotten wind of this and I’m mostly home bound with no transportation, I’m also an amputee of the right leg above the knee with 3/4 of nerve damage of my left leg. The reason that I believe I have something coming to me is because my Grandfather, Cage Anderson, was a hard working farmer back in the day and I remember him talking about the loan that he couldn’t get from the Bank in Franklin County, MS. The only proof that I have is that he own property back in the 20′s 30′s & 40′s and me and my cousins still have some of it today. It’s not much because as you know over the years some got sold and some got taken for taxes but my Grandfather was a God fearing man and taught us a lot about life and he would be happy to know that his grandchildren got something from his hard work.

  • Patty Says:

    I am not sure I see how this would have had anything to do with the racism case against Sharrod and the USDA if this case was racism against blacks. I thought the Sherrod case was her admitting early racism against whites because her father was killed by a white man,but that she learned that it didn’t matter what color the person was;but it was a matter of helping people who were poor from losing their land?

  • It’s Not Over — Why Now? Says:

    [...] I’m afraid that Shirley Sherrod is not going to be allowed to put this behind her, because they have her in their sights and have already started the second line of attack – Pigford vs Vilsack. [...]

  • Taylor Says:

    I am committed to answering all web comments on my site, and despite the precipice upon which yours seems to put me, I will not break form. I will attempt to do so in a way that is as neutral, factual, and detached from ideology as possible. And in that effort, I fully expect to anger absolutely everyone engaged in this irrationally polarized debate by not taking their side, or appearing to take the other side.

    But here goes:

    There is clearly a sentiment within the political right that the forced resignation of Shirley Sherrod is actually an attempt to derail the exposition of the Pigford settlement as part of the Obama Administration’s secret agenda to, at best – raise the federal deficit by allocating money arbitrarily and unnecessarily to social programs, and at worst- to implement an agenda that is focused on promoting ‘reparations’ and reverse discrimination.

    There seems to be a feeling within the political left that the forced resignation of Shirley Sherrod is actually – at best an unnecessary and wimpy decision to bow to the protests of a few right wing extremist pundits, and at worst – an attempt to distance itself from a legitimate decision, in Pigford, to compensate farmers who were systematically discriminated against by the USDA for many years.

    These are both suppositions on my part, but they are based on actual statements and rhetoric coming from blog sites from each camp which have linked to my posting of a USDA press release about the Pigford settlement in February of this year.

    In your post, you seem to question my suggestion that Pigford “may have played some role in the decision”. And I don’t fault your logic in suggesting that Pigford is unrelated to the issue over which she was ostensibly asked to resign, nor will I insist that it absolutely did play a role since I have no first hand information. But the Administration does pay attention to negative feedback the issues that are used by the opposition to discredit it. It wouldn’t be a ‘political’ administration if it didn’t. And the fact that Shirley Sherrod’s farm received a significant settlement in the Pigford case and lauded the decision on behalf of her employer just 13 days before she was appointed to her position within USDA really doesn’t look good. And American politics is all about ‘looking good’.

    At the same time, upon watching the entire video I cannot disagree that her primary motivation seems to actually be helping farmers, not discriminating against them.
    I also think that USDA’s primary motivation during the years that the Pigford case covers, was actually helping farmers, not discriminating against them.

    Conservatives seem to think that the decision against the USDA was unfair, and that the decision against Sherrod was fair.
    And liberals seem to think the decision against USDA was fair, and the decision against Sherrod was unfair.

    To me it looks like both Sherrod and the USDA were guilty of poor decisions, that both have admitted to them, that both have learned from them, and that both have been punished for them in retrospect.

    The difference is that USDA is an Agency, and Sherrod is a person. So the real question for me is not whether the issues were related, but whether the punishment fit the crime in either case.

    I will not attempt to answer this question. But I will suggest that the perspectives of both the left-wing and the right-wing, at least as the are they are presented by individuals on blogs and in chat and in other media sources with respect to the issues raise here, represent extremes that will only exacerbate our inability to collectively deal with issues of race and farmer development. And while I am personally concerned about the former, I have chosen to work more actively on the latter. And in so doing have attempted, with some success to reach out to broad constituencies in ways that have been both personally satisfying and, I believe, substantially effective. I don’t claim any high moral ground because of this. I just want to suggest that the more we are able to work together, the harder we try to at least understand (though perhaps not agree with) the perspectives held by those who are different than us, the more functional we will be as a society, and the more fulfilled we will be as individuals. It is easy to hate, to dismiss, to and to judge. But the rewards obtained through these practices pale in comparison to those we receive from cooperation, empathy, and understanding.

    Computer: Delete Soapbox


  • elaine Says:


    Bravo ! Well said.

  • Taylor Says:

    My guess is probably not, since it has already gone through two rounds over the last 10+ years and is unlikely to go through another. You could try contacting NAACP or USDA to inquire.

  • James Levy Says:

    The problem is 1/3 of this money is going to be going to the Law Firm of James Scott Farrin, he is a personal injury lawyer in Durham, North Carolina who advertises on TV all the time.

    Farrin’s website and the website of the black farmer’s association appears to be the same company, maybe its the in-house people. Does anyone think this is suspicious.

    look at http://www.farrin.com

    I think the FBI should look into this, I don’t want my tax dollars going to make some advertising TV lawyer Rich-ER

  • Taylor Says:

    Unfortunately, there is nothing unusual about a lawyer getting 1/3 of a personal injury lawsuit settlement. As messed up as this may be, it’s pretty standard. And as long as his connection is to the plaintiffs he was representing, not to the party paying the settlement, there doesn’t seem to be any particular conflict of interest here. I don’t disagree that it’s messed up to see our tax dollars going to lawyers. But you’ll see the same thing with pretty much every class action suit the Federal Government has settled in the last 50 years. Some shiester always gets 1/3-1/2 of the loot. I agree, its messed up, but if there is malfeasance here, I think you may be looking in the wrong place for it.

  • Taylor Says:

    And by the way, no one is getting paid on this just yet neither the plaintiffs, nor the lawyer, because the Senate has not appropriated the money for it! http://www.allbusiness.com/government/government-bodies-offices-government/14843591-1.html

  • James levy Says:

    The Senate is voting on this again on Monday, straight up or down vote. Everyone, call your Senator and tell them NO on this back door slave reparations settlement and NO on this settlement for James Scott Farrin. The American people are smarter than this.

  • Taylor Says:

    Thanks for your post. I am curious about your contention that Pigford is related to reparations for slavery. In my reading of the original case files and court briefs, the original settlement, the portion of the 2008 Farm Bill which approved the settlement of Pigford II, and the February 2010 settlement itself, it appears that the issue (right or wrong) is related to the failure of USDA to address complaints by a few black farmers that Title 1 Market Assistance Loans (which over 75% of commodity farmers received each year) were systematically denied to them by county allocation boards.

    I am not one to dismiss government conspiracy theories out of hand. But the fact that this one relates to a small number of individuals with a very specific grievance, spans 3 presidential administrations and all three branches of government, makes it seem somewhat improbable (though certainly not impossible) to me.

    It would bolster your theory greatly if you could offer some (any) sort of evidence. Is there anything akin to “the grassy knoll” or “back and to the left” which you can point me to here? Your post makes it seem that you may have something related to the lawyer for the plaintiffs (Farrin). If so, I would greatly appreciate it if you would be so kind as to share.


  • Mike Fussell Says:

    How much did Sherrod get in the settlement? And how did they arrive at the amount she received?

  • Taylor Says:

    So far no one has gotten anything because Congress hasn’t appropriated the money for the settlement.

    Unfortunately it’s not actually that easy to figure out her portion since she and her husband were not the only owners of their farm cooperative. If the money is, allocated that cooperative, which was foreclosed on in 1985, will be among the biggest recipients – I believe the number is $13 Million. I have never been able to figure out their ownership share, nor have I ever seen the exact formula used for allocation within the settlement. But individual allocations are primarily related to farm size. And the farm cooperative that the Sherrod’s were part owners of was really big.

    Unfortunately the biggest farms (whoever owns them) are eligible for the vast majority of the federal payments and ‘loans’ (which are only sort of loans, but that’s a different story) that the suit alleged were denied. The richest 10% of farmers (in gross receipts) get well over 50% of the more than $15 billion paid out annually in federal farm ‘subsidies’.

    That’s about as much as I can tell you without doing a whole bunch more research on this issue which I simply don’t have time to pursue. But I hope that helps answer the question to at least some degree.

    Best Regards,

  • Mary Dunlop Says:

    Is it true that iin 2008, a junior US Senator got a law passed to reopen this case and allow more black farmers to sue for funds? And the Senator was Barack Hussein Obama?

  • Taylor Says:

    No. The law that allowed the reopening of the case was the Food and Energy Security Act of 2007 (also known as the Farm Bill), passed by Congress on May 22, 2008. This is a piece of legislation that is passed every 5 years.

  • Obamaisabastard Says:

    Fucking Bullshit.
    African Americans are a weight around the neck of America and she’s sinking fast.
    When retarded looking representatives as Al Sharpton and Mark Lamont Hill, there blame whitey rhetoric is nauseating.
    From the knoxville massacre to the looting in New Orleans, America is worse off and divided because of the 98% of the blacks who voted for Obama and worship him as their savior.
    Pigford is just one more brick in the dismantlement of American equality.
    Soon I believe white Americans will wake up (and they already are eg. Tea Party) and the shoe will be on the other foot.
    The outright swaggering of this race of Africans after the 140 million dollar inauguration of Hussein Obama was also indecent, from rev. Lowrys racist poem to professor gates beer summit with Obama and the racist cop. what a joke.
    black Americans are dying of inferiority complexes and they possess a deep hatred of the white race in America.
    But soon the shoe will be on the other foot again. In its place.
    I believe that the White race is awakening on a grand scale.

  • Taylor Says:

    You Said: Fucking Bullshit.
    You sound angry, maybe talking to someone would help.

    You Said: African Americans are a weight around the neck of America and she’s sinking fast.
    I wasn’t aware that America’s neck was female, but thank you so very much for that useful piece of information. I too am concerned about rising sea levels but they are due to climate change, not sinking land mass. Nor are they an uniquely American phenomenon.

    You Said: When retarded looking representatives as Al Sharpton and Mark Lamont Hill, there blame whitey rhetoric is nauseating.
    I find it rather ironic that someone who can neither spell nor form a coherent sentence would use the term ‘retarded’ in a derogatory way.

    You Said: From the knoxville massacre to the looting in New Orleans, America is worse off and divided because of the 98% of the blacks who voted for Obama and worship him as their savior.
    An historical note: New Orleans was looted prior to the current president taking office. Also, most black Americans are Christians, and as such they worship Jesus as their savior, not Obama.

    You Said: Pigford is just one more brick in the dismantlement of American equality.
    In my experience, bricks are typically used to build things, not dismantle them.

    You Said: Soon I believe white Americans will wake up (and they already are eg. Tea Party) and the shoe will be on the other foot.
    This sounds implausible to me because most Americans take both shoes off before going to sleep.

    You Said: The outright swaggering of this race of Africans after the 140 million dollar inauguration of Hussein Obama was also indecent, from rev. Lowrys racist poem to professor gates beer summit with Obama and the racist cop. what a joke.
    To which race of Africans do you refer, and why did they wait until the inauguration was over to swagger? In the pictures I saw of the inauguration, everyone was fully clothed, not indecent. It’s amazing what they can do with computers these days. Perhaps that’s why it was so expensive.

    You Said: black Americans are dying of inferiority complexes and they possess a deep hatred of the white race in America.
    Your concern is touching. But I think far more black Americans die of heart disease and cancer than inferiority complexes. I think you could make a bigger impact by concentrating your energy on fighting these diseases.

    You Said: But soon the shoe will be on the other foot again. In its place.
    Now I’m really confused. I still don’t understand why you think we are going to start sleeping with one shoe on. It sounds uncomfortable. And after the eg. Tea Party spent all that time switching the shoe from one foot to the other it seems a shame to move it back to the other foot again. But as you say, that’s its place, so who am I to argue?

    You Said: I believe that the White race is awakening on a grand scale.
    It would need to be a very grand scale indeed for all of us to fit. I wonder how much we weigh collectively. But thanks for the warning. When I inexplicably wake up on a big scale surrounded by white people wearing one shoe, I’ll be less surprised.

    Thanks for your insightful and intelligent contribution to this discussion. I learned a lot.

  • Love vs. Vilsack: Part 2 « In Her Field Says:

    [...] are comparisons to the recently settled discrimination suits brought by African-American farmers (Pigford) and Native American farmers (Keepseagle), and to the ongoing Hispanic suit (Garcia) which will be [...]

  • Taylor Says:

    The filing period opened November 14, 2011, and continues for 180 days, until May 11, 2012.

    Claimant services representatives can also be reached through calling 1-877-810-8110 or 1-866-950-5547. Claimants must register for a claims package (by calling the number or visiting the website) and the claims package will be mailed to claimants. All those interested in learning more or receiving information about the claims process and claims packages are encouraged to attend a meeting and contact the website or claims telephone number.

    The website is: http://www.blackfarmercase.com

    The call number is: 1-877-810-8110 or 1-866-950-5547

    Claims period: November 14, 2011 to May 11, 2012

  • Pigford: How liberals and liars made a silk purse of this sow's ear | via American Thinker - DoomsDaddy Says:

    [...] Pigford #2 is the appellation used to identify an expanded payment regime that funds more payments to African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, and females.  This regimen grew out of the fact that thousands of claimants missed the original Pigford #1 filing deadline of October 12, 1999.  Interestingly, Native American potential claimants were estimated at 5,300, while plaintiff lawyers pegged the exposure at an estimated 19,000 Native Americans.  The judgment fund announced by Agricultural Secretary Thomas Vilsack and Eric Holder in 2010 was expanded from just over $120 million to $1.25 billion, given the expectation of many more filers. [...]

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