Yesterday, a judge approved a $1.15 billion settlement in the decades old class action suit filed by black farmers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Judge Paul Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upheld the decision of Congress to pass legislation appropriating the funds and addressing a discrimination case that lasted three presidential administrations.


Farmers will now have 180 days from the ruling to file their claims, which the judge said would all need to be reviewed before payouts are released.


The settlement is the second one reached with black farmers led by Timothy Pigford, who filed a class action suit in 1997 alleging racial discrimination in farm loan programs. According to the lawsuit, beginning 1981 through 1996, USDA officials rejected loan application from black farmers or approved loans with unfair terms.


The government paid out $1 billion in 1999 to thousands of farmers but thousands more were left out because they filed late claims. Last year, the USDA reached a $1.25 billion agreement with farmers excluded from the first lawsuit.


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Posted 10/28/2011