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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 5, 1999


In December 1997, Vice President Gore and I met with a group of African-American and other small farmers who came to the White House to discuss farm issues and claims of discrimination by the Department of Agriculture. During the meeting we heard painful statements about the plight of several African-American farmers who were struggling to ensure that their farms remain alive and vibrant. At the time, I pledged, along with Secretary Glickman, that the USDA would work tirelessly to ensure that a proper resolution to their concerns was reached.

Today, Secretary Glickman announced an historic settlement of a civil rights lawsuit between African-American farmers and the USDA. I want to take this opportunity to thank Secretary Glickman and his staff, members of my staff, and the Department of Justice for working so hard to bring about this major milestone. I also want to applaud the farmers themselves for their unceasing efforts to make their government hear their calls for justice. Finally, I want to thank all those in the Congress, particularly the Congressional Black Caucus, Senators Robb and Grassley, and Speaker Gingrich, who worked to pass critical legislation waiving a statute of limitations provision which had prevented less timely, but no less deserving, discrimination cases from being addressed.

Today's action is an important step in Secretary Glickman's ongoing efforts to rid the Agriculture Department of discriminatory behavior and redress any harm that has been caused by past discrimination against African-American family farmers. For more than two years, the Secretary has worked diligently to restructure the Civil Rights Office at USDA to make it responsive to the needs of all farmers who wish to have their claims heard.

My Administration has always been committed to fighting discrimination and expanding opportunity for all Americans -- in our offices, in our factories, and on our farms. America's farm families stand for the values that have kept our nation strong for over 220 years, and African-American family farmers have played an historic role in building that tradition. By helping to eliminate artificial barriers to African-American farm ownership, we will help to ensure that discrimination does not harm this proud heritage -- and that all of America's farmers go strongly into the 21st Century.