Congress poised to pass Indian, black farmer deals
WASHINGTON: Wouldbe farmer Carl Eggleston has been waiting nearly a decade to refile his claim against the government for the discrimination he says he faced when he tried to start a hog farm on his Virginia property.
The African-American from Farmville said his application for a government loan was never even processed, and he ultimately turned to other work. Eggleston, 60, said he worked at a furniture store and a shoe company before eventually moving into the funeral home business, where he works today.
"I could never get it off the ground," he said of his venture to expand on the handful of hogs his father raised.
Eggleston is among thousands of African-Americans and American Indians who stand to gain if Congress wraps up a landmark bill this week resolving two major classaction lawsuits against the government. A House vote expected as early as Tuesday would complete congressional action and send the measure to President Barack Obama, whose administration brokered settlements over the past year.
The package would award some $1.2 billion to AfricanAmericans who claim they tried to farm in recent decades but were denied loans and other assistance from the Agriculture Department. Another $3.4 billion would go to American Indians who have battled in court for nearly 15 years over claims they were cheated out of royalties overseen by the Interior Department for resources like oil, gas and timber. In a conference call with reporters Monday, Obama administration officials urged passage and said the settlements protect taxpayers while offering fair compensation for people who were mistreated.
"We'd like to put this chapter at USDA behind us," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. -Ap