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USDA reaches new settlement with black farmers

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration has reached a deal with black farmers that could end a years-long stalemate over alleged racial discrimination by the Agriculture Department.

The agency said the administration is planning to announce a $1.25 billion fund Thursday to compensate African-Americans who say they were unfairly denied assistance from USDA.

President Barack Obama requested the same amount in his budget last year, but the funding stalled in Congress as settlement talks continued.

"My Administration is dedicated to ensuring that federal agencies treat all our citizens fairly, and the settlement in the Pigford case reflects that commitment," President Obama said in a statement. "I applaud Secretary Vilsack for his efforts to modernize operations at the USDA, as well as the work of the Justice Department in bringing these long-ignored claims of African American farmers to a rightful conclusion.  I look forward to a swift resolution to this issue, so that the families affected can move on with their lives."

If approved by Congress, it would be the second round of damages stemming from a class-action lawsuit originally settled in 1999.

The new money is intended for people who were denied earlier payments, often over missed deadlines.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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