Aug 6, 2010

A Republican senator blocked a measure on Thursday that would have compensated black farmers in one of the largest civil rights settlements in U.S. history, again delaying action on a decades-old bias lawsuit.

The settlement, agreed to in February, would provide $1.25 billion to compensate black farmers who were left out of federal farm loan and assistance programs for years due to racism.

Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan requested unanimous consent to approve funding for the settlement but an objection from Republican Senator John Barrasso scuttled the attempt.

This was the last opportunity to finalize the settlement before the Senate breaks for the August recess.

While the 2008 farm bill earmarked $100 million for the farmers, the remaining $1.15 billion to uphold the deal requires approval from Congress.

The U.S. House of Representatives twice passed legislation that would appropriate the funds, but equivalent action stalled in the Senate.

Measures for the funding have come to the Senate floor seven times, and each time failed to pass due to partisan squabbles, said John Boyd Jr, head of the National Black Farmers Association.

Boyd likened the delays in funding the settlement to the discrimination experienced by black farmers involved in the lawsuit.

"It shows that some of the same treatment that happened to the black farmers at the Department of Agriculture is transpiring with the Senate's inaction to help black farmers," he said.
 

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