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Obama Praises Judge’s Approval of $1.2 Billion Settlement for Black Farmers

President Obama cheered Friday a federal judge who approved a $1.2 billion government settlement with black farmers who claim they were cheated out of loans and other assistance from the Agriculture Department over many years.

Federal judge Paul Friedman gave the final approval to the settlement late Thursday, nearly a year after Congress approved it. Friedman said it will likely take about a year for neutral parties to review claims and then all of the settlements will be paid out at once.

Obama called it “another important step forward in addressing an unfortunate chapter in USDA’s civil rights history.”

“This agreement will provide overdue relief and justice to African American farmers, and bring us closer to the ideals of freedom and equality that this country was founded on,” he said in a statement.

This is the second round of settlements in the 1999 case known as the Pigford case, after the original plaintiff, North Carolina farmer Timothy Pigford. The settlement is directed at farmers who were denied payments in the first round because they missed deadlines for filing.

In the first round, the government paid out more than $1 billion to about 16,000 farmers, with most getting payments of about $50,000. Tens of thousands of new claims are expected in the second round and the amount of money each would get depends on how many are successful.

The cost of the settlement will be offset by diverting dollars from a surplus in nutrition programs for women and children, extending customs user fees and new efforts for the Treasury to recoup excess unemployment insurance payments.