Congress poised to pass In­dian, black farmer deals

The Pak Banker - - International3 -

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

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