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Settlement deadline approaching for black farmers

Thousands of black farmers in the South are anxiously watching the calendar this week. Congress has until March 31, next Wednesday, to appropriate just over $1 billion to compensate black farmers for discrimination they suffered at the hands of the USDA. The USDA and Department of Justice announced the settlement in mid-February, and since then John Boyd has virtually moved in on Capitol Hill. He rushes back to Virginia on the weekends to keep his farm afloat. As President of the National Black Farmer's Association, Boyd is under a tight deadline. The settlement reached with the USDA on February 18 will expire if Congress doesn't appropriate $1.15 billion for it by March 31. Boyd says so far he's not seeing much progress. Lawmakers have been preoccupied with health care. And so, it seems, has the President. "He looked real good and sounded very good and strong on health care this past week and we really need that same type of fire," says Boyd. "So I'm calling on the President to take immediate action and to finish the job that he started and bring justice to the black farmers." An amendment to fund the Black Farmer settlement has been introduced in the Senate, but Boyd is worried it won't get through before March 31. He says Congressional leaders tell him the President needs to designate the issue an "emergency" in order to push the funding to the front of the agenda. The discrimination claims in the settlement date cover most of the 90s when thousands of black farmers say they were denied loans and government aid.