House approves settlement of farmer discrimination claims

Posted by Samuel King - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that would give more than $1 billion to black farmers who say they were victims of discrimination.  It's the final step before the agreement goes to the President's desk for his signature.

We first talked to Willie James Brown almost two months ago, after he went to Washington to lobby for the settlement.

He says for many years, he and other black farmers were discriminated against by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.   He's pleased the settlement is now close to becoming reality.

"I'm glad to hear it, because the farmer you know is catching it," Brown said.

He said the recent drought hit farmers in the state hard. And he said the settlement could be a starting point to turn things around.

"It's just take money to operate now, anybody can see that," Brown said.  "The way everything done gone up, it takes money to do something with it."

Opponents of the settlement said it would encourage fraud, because descendants of those who owned farms could ask for claims.  Brown hopes those who deserve the money are the ones receiving it.

"If he didn't farm, if his daddy didn't farm, he should not go say he did farm, that's the way I see it."

Brown already received his settlement during the first round of claims, which was $50,000.  Native Americans also received $3.4 billion as part of the settlement package.  It will settle claims they were cheated out of royalties overseen by the Department of the Interior.

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