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US government promises $1.25B to black farmers

The Obama Administration announced yesterday it has reached a settlement to compensate thousands of black farmers who were discriminated against by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The announcement comes less than a week after black farmers held rallies across the south demanding the government pay up. John Boyd of the National Black Farmers Association organized the rallies and says the latest settlement is long-overdue. "If you could see the faces that I saw over the past few weeks where about 8,000 black farmers came out to rallies we had in the South," says Boyd. "I had a black farmer look at me and say 'Dr. Boyd, do you have gas money that you can lend me to get home?' That's real, you know?" It's been more than 10 years since the Department of Agriculture admitted to denying loans to black farmers. About 16,000 of those farmers received settlement checks averaging $50,000. But many more farmers applied too late and didn't get a dime. Now, the Department of Agriculture has announced a plan to pay them $1.25 billion. But first, Congress must appropriate the money, and last year it said 'No.' Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hopes the formal settlement approved yesterday by the Department of Justice will help. "One of the concerns Congress expressed to us was the lack of a signed settlement agreement in which there was acknowledgement by the plaintiffs that this would be sufficient amount to resolve the dispute," says Vilsack. "Well we now have a signed settlement agreement." For the settlement to stand, Congress must appropriate the money by March 31.