Judge approves settlement for black farmers

WASHINGTON Fri Oct 28, 2011 12:28am EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday approved a $1.25 billion settlement in a decades-old discrimination case by black farmers, clearing the way for them to seek compensation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for being left out of farm aid programs.

The decision helps tens of thousands of farmers who had been denied part of an earlier 1999 settlement because they missed the filing deadline.

U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman wrote in an order approving the agreement that Congress by waiving the statute of limitations has further redressed "the historic discrimination against African-American farmers." He called the settlement "fair, reasonable, and adequate."

National Black Farmers Association president said it was "a very important step that should provide assurance to the black farmers that each of their cases will now move toward a resolution."

The black farmers reached this settlement with the government in February 2010 to compensate them for being left out of federal farm loan and assistance programs for years because of alleged racial discrimination.

The original Pigford class-action lawsuit, named after North Carolina farmer Timothy Pigford, was settled in 1999 for $1 billion, two years after a group of African-American farmers sued then Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman.

(Reporting by JoAnne Allen; Editing by Jackie Frank)

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