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Black Farmers Hopeful, Drought of Justice May Be Over

June 23, 1998

"This could be the makings of a landmark resolution, bringing to a close another ugly chapter of 20th century America".

(Washington) - The resolute leadership, steadfast commitment and unshakable resolve of Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) has kept the Congress on point and helped bring about today’s bipartisan effort to settle the outstanding suits and formal claims of racial discrimination against minority farmers dating back as far as 1982. Today the House took up the Agriculture Appropriations Act for FY ‘99. The House is set to pass a provision, provided by the Rules Committee, which waives the statute of limitations that has prevented the nation’s minority farmers from receiving restitution from the federal government. “Today we can see the budding seedlings of justice on the twisting, age-withered vines of American justice. Within this bill lies the fruits of the farmers’ long years of silenced suffering, lobbying efforts, protests, and marches. This may be the final litmus test for “liberty and justice for all” for black farmers,” said McKinney.

A Republican Administration shut down the Department of Agriculture’s Office of Civil Rights, and a Democratic Congress was complicit in it. The Department of Agriculture has recently attempted to settle some of these claims, yet the Department of Justice has raised several road blocks to achieving this. With the support of Speaker Gingrich, the White House promised a fix on Supplemental Appropriation yet the President signed the spending bill without any mention of the minority farmers.

The language set to pass today allows the statute of limitations to be lifted; and it authorizes USDA to settle outstanding administrative claims filed before July 1, 1997. This amendment also provides for judicial relief through the U. S. Court of Federal Claims. “These farmers have heard excuse after excuse as to why they cannot receive justice. This very well could be the makings of a landmark resolution bringing closure to another ugly chapter of 20th century America,” McKinney concluded.

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