U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials charge that a spending ceiling in the House farm bill inserted because of pay-as-you-go budgetary rules will prevent thousands of black farmers from winning damages under a landmark civil rights case even if their claims are successful.
The problem, according to USDA, is that the bill includes a ceiling limiting payments for those claims to $100 million, which USDA argues isn’t nearly enough to cover potential claims. The ceiling was added late in the construction of the farm bill after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) offered an informal $2 billion score for the Pigford language.
“This $100 million was put in to create a line item. It was no way intended to be the final amount,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said. Thompson said more funds to pay off claims could be found in future appropriations or supplemental legislation.