The Senate today approved funding for the Pigford II settlement after nine months of delays. It must still be approved by the House in order to pass.
The $1.25 billion settlement is the result of a class action lawsuit filed by black farmers who were discriminated against by the Department of Agriculture. The settlement was approved by a federal judge in February.
The Senate was finally able to pass the settlement, as well as one for American Indians whose land trusts were mismanaged by the government, because Democrats agreed to cut the money from other programs instead of paying with deficit spending. Among them are $2 billion from Customs fees, $562 million from surplus from WIC, a food stamps program for women and children, and an expected $2.7 billion saved by allowing the Treasury to recoup overpaid insurance claims from tax returns. *
Because of Republican objections, Congress has repeatedly failed to approve the funding for the two settlements.
The House must also approve the funding before it can be signed by President Obama.
Last month, the USDA announced another big settlement, this one for American Indian farmers who were also discriminated against by the department. The settlement will draw most of its $780 million from a Justice Department fund — skipping the need for approval by Congress.
[*Ed. note: this sentence was changed after it was published.]