Obama signs law for Black farmers

American Indians and Black farmers will be paid $4.6 billion to address claims of government mistreatment over many decades under landmark legislation President Barack Obama signed Wednesday. The legislation “closes a long and unfortunate chapter in our history,” Obama said.

“It’s finally time to make things right.”

At a signing ceremony at the White House, the president declared that approval of the long-delayed legislation “isn’t simply a matter of making amends. It’s about reaffirming our values on which this nation was founded: the principles of fairness and equality and opportunity.”

The Black farmers’ case involves allegations of widespread discrimination by local Agriculture Department offices in awarding loans and other aid. It is named after Timothy Pigford, a Black farmer from North Carolina who was an original plaintiff.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann spoke out against the Pigford settlement. “Every single claimant needs to be fully investigated,” she said. “Why have this settlement? Why pay out 94,000 claims? What’s going on?

“We are here talking about cutting the budget,” Bachmann said. “I think this is the first place to cut. This is just flat out wrong. Can we be gutsy enough on the House floor to say this is a complete fraud?”

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) likened the program to “modern-day reparations” for African Americans and argued that the claims process is rife with fraud. “We are not gonna pay slavery reparations in the United States Congress,” he said. “That war’s been fought. That was over a century ago. That debt was paid for in blood.”

Even with Obama’s signature, the settlement must still go through a gauntlet of court hearings, a media campaign to notify beneficiaries, and waiting periods for comments and appeals.

— From various news sources