Allen Unveils Bill to Help Black Farmers

The Associated Press
Friday, September 29, 2006; 4:56 AM

WASHINGTON -- Dogged by allegations of racial insensitivity, Sen. George Allen on Thursday introduced a bill to help black farmers.

Allen, R-Va., has spent weeks rebutting accusations that he used racist language and liked Confederate symbols.

An acquaintance from college has said he used a common slur for blacks. Stories have been revived about Allen keeping a Confederate flag at home and a hangman's noose in his law office.

The furor began Aug. 11, when the senator called a volunteer for his opponent "macaca," considered by some to be a racial slur, during a political rally.

Allen had been favored for re-election over Democrat Jim Webb, who served as Navy secretary under President Reagan. A former governor, Allen had also been considered a contender for president in 2008.

The bill Allen is sponsoring would give black farmers another chance at compensation under the settlement of a discrimination lawsuit against the Agriculture Department. A similar measure is pending in the House.

The department agreed seven years ago to pay farmers who could show they were discriminated against, providing payments of $50,000 in most cases and unlimited payments in extreme cases.

More than 60,000 people submitted claims but missed the filing deadline. Black farmers' groups have been lobbying Congress to let those claims proceed.

"Our civil rights fight has taken a decade, but this is an important step in the struggle," Virginia farmer John Boyd, the president of the National Black Farmers Association, said in a news release from Allen's office.

Allen said the bill expands benefits from the settlement "to all African American farmers who suffered the indignity and inequality of being denied financial assistance through USDA."

© 2006 The Associated Press