Pigford v Glickman — more commonly known as “the black farmers’ lawsuit” — was brought up during Wednesday’s House Agriculture Committee hearing. Despite a $1.25 billion settlement between the USDA (which was accused of entrenched racism in the case) and claimants being announced in February, those eligible for payment have yet to see a penny.

“What’s the status on the Pigford case?” asked Georgia Rep. David Scott of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“My understanding is that Congress, under the settlement, is required to appropriate the money to satisfy the agreed upon amount,” replied Vilsack. “Under the system you’ve engaged under pay-go, there’s a responsibility to identify offsets or designate that settlement as an emergency, which would supersede pay-go responsibilities.

“The challenge is that when Pigford was reopened by activity in the 2008 farm bill, you made the determination not to make the judgment fund available for payment. If you were trying to reverse that — say, ‘now that we think about it, we’d like to use the judgment fund’ — our understanding of your rules is that legislative action triggers pay-go.

“So, we’re working … to identify precisely the course of action that will allow Congress to move forward and appropriate the money.”

For more on the case, see http://deltafarmpress.com/legislative/black-farmers-settlement-funding-date-0326/index.html and http://deltafarmpress.com/legislative/black-farmers-0219/index.html.

e-mail: dbennett@farmpress.com