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February 19, 2010; Washington Post | This month, the Obama Administration settled Pigford, or we should say, the latest iteration of Pigford—the case that attempted to rectify decades of overt and documented systematic discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture against black farmers—pledging $1.25 billion to compensate black farmers who were not helped or insufficiently helped in previous settlements (we wrote about the Pigford advocacy here, here  and here). This is a huge victory for the dogged advocates who found earlier versions of black farmer settlements inadequate on their face and undermined by Agriculture’s implementation. It is no surprise that this settlement occurred under President Obama, who as Senator Obama sponsored legislation (along with Iowa Republican Charles Grassley) to rectify the inadequacies of the earlier dysfunctional compensation offered black farmers. As President, Obama even had to counter the bureaucrats he inherited at Agriculture whose original FY2010 proposals were paltry responses to the black farmers’ grievances. We take note here of two different advocates who deserve a huge measure of congratulations for winning this case. John Boyd of the National Black Farmers Association has waged a sometimes lonely battle over the years, adopting in your face direct actions, including Capitol Hill protests during DC’s “snowmageddon” not two weeks before the settlement was announced. Equally important has been the decades of work put in by Ralph Paige and his colleagues at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund. We first learned about the Pigford case from Paige’s wife and colleague, Shirley Sherrod, who has been appointed to run the USDA’s Rural Development office in Georgia by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The future of the Pigford case is still murky; Paige’s press release points out that there is still much to be done to make the new settlement work including Congressional appropriation of the funds and the courts’ approval of the Agriculture settlement. But there is something to look forward to:  Latino, women, and Native American farmers have also sued Agriculture for the discrimination they encountered in trying to get USDA subsidies and loans. And as Boyd notes, there is a fundamental problem of trust. With the continuation of many of people in Agriculture from administration to administration, can black farmers or any of the other aggrieved classes of people who feel like they’ve suffered discriminatory treatment at the department, really trust that the bureaucrats there have changed and trust can be restored?—Rick Cohen