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Valley Farmers May Get Settlement

The Justice Department has cleared the way for an initial payment to be made in a $107 million settlement between the federal government and San Joaquin Valley farmers whose land was damaged by decades of intensive irrigation and poor drainage.

A judge approved the settlement on February sixth for about 100 farming families in the nationĀ“s largest agricultural irrigation district. The landowners sued the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for allegedly failing to provide a promised drainage system. The families claimed the salts in irrigation water accumulated to damage the farmland.

The settlement is part of a larger move to retire a total of 200,000 damaged acres in the 600,000-acre Westlands district. Estimates of this farmland buyout range as high as $500 million.