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U.S. to pay black farmer for loan bias

(Saturday, Jan. 25, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Associated Press, 01/24/03 The Agriculture Department will pay a black farmer $6.6 million for discriminating against him, officials said today.

Officials had been considering for a month whether to appeal a judge's order that the agency pay the farmer, Will Sylvester Warren of Southampton County, Va., for 17 years of discrimination.

A spokeswoman for the department, Alisa Harrison, confirmed that it would pay Mr. Warren, but added that officials were reviewing other aspects of the decision, by a law judge in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Constance T. O'Bryant, to ensure that it did "not violate any of the laws under U.S.D.A. authority."

Mr. Warren, 77, did not immediately return calls for comment.

Groups of black farmers said the decision to pay Mr. Warren gives them hope that the Agriculture Department, along with the judges, adjudicators and arbitrators who hear their cases, will be more sympathetic.

"I think this opens up the door to give all of those people a fair trial," said John Boyd, head of the National Black Farmers Association.

Thousands of black farmers said in a class-action suit, Pigford v. Glickman, that they had routinely been denied loans because of their race. As part of a settlement for the case in 1997, the Agriculture Department agreed to let farmers seek $50,000 settlements in cases where the government determined that it had discriminated. Washington has paid $634 million in 12,690 cases and denied 8,540 cases.

Mr. Warren chose to remain out of the settlement and sought a judgment.

Many black farmers are upset with the results of the accord, saying the Agriculture Department did not discipline the loan agents accused of discrimination and unfairly rejected thousands of cases.

Tom Burrell of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association said he wanted the Bush administration to throw out the settlement and start anew.

Citing the judgment in the Warren case, Mr. Burrell said, "If that's not a basis for someone to revisit this decision of this lawsuit called Pigford, I don't know what is."

See story at http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/25/national/25FARM.html

Related story at: http://www.cropchoice.com/leadstry.asp?recid=920