WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Black farmers sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Sept. 9 with claims that the government discriminates against them in loans and farm programs — allegations that also were at issue in a sweeping civil rights case settled five years ago.

The new lawsuit seeks $20.5 billion and class-action status for up to 25,000 blacks who farmed or attempted to farm between 1997 and 2004. The lawsuit also claims that the USDA is retaliating against farmers who collected payments from the 1999 settlement.

The farmers in that case said that they had been systematically denied federal loans and subsidies for years. The settlement has been criticized, especially since an August report by the Environmental Working Group and the National Black Farmers Association found many farmers’ claims were rejected.

The report said about 96,000 black farmers sought restitution under the settlement; 72,438 of those claims were rejected in arbitration; and 7,800 for failing to meet filing deadlines.

The new lawsuit was filed in Washington, D.C., by the Black Farmers and Agriculturalist Association and 11 other plaintiffs.

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