During a June 30 Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was asked about a resolution of the Pigford lawsuit. Earlier this year, black farmer plaintiffs agreed to settle a discrimination suit against the USDA. However, despite assurances that payments would be made quickly, funds have still not been made available to resolve the case.
Also on Vilsack’s to-do list: dealing with similar class-action discrimination cases brought against the USDA by Hispanics (Garcia v. Vilsack), Native Americans (Keepseagle v. Vilsack), and women (Love v. Vilsack).
Vilsack: “Our hope is you’ll find a legislative vehicle. We’ve identified an offset you can tack (the necessary funds) onto so we can . .&bnspp. begin the process of getting these folks [Pigford plaintiffs] paid what they’re entitled to.
“At the same time, we’re setting up a process where we’ll offer a settlement opportunity for the folks in the Garcia and Love cases. And we’re in significant negotiations with the plaintiffs in the Keepseagle case.
“The goal in all of this is to close this chapter and begin a new chapter in civil rights within the USDA.”