Black farmers finally getting paid
More than $1 billion added to fund
The U.S. District Court approved a settlement in the ongoing saga between Black farmers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) providing an additional $1.2 billion for thousands of plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit.
The Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation, decided Oct. 27 by Judge Paul L. Friedman, was derived from a class action suit initiated in 1997, Pigford v. Glickman, in which African American farmers (initially James Copeland, Earl Moorer and Marshallene McNeil) joined to allege a pattern of systemic exclusion from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant and lease programs.
It was alleged that the USDA discriminated on the basis of race in various federal programs denying Black farmers loans and other benefits that were granted to White farmers. It was noted, when the Black farmers filed complaints to USDA, the allegations were not investigated.
In addition, no remedies were sought to correct egregious violations of civil rights laws. USDA’s failure to act deprived countless farmers of credits and payments under various federal programs which resulted in financial and real estate losses.
“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,” said President Barack Obama at a recent press conference.
The resulting consent decree was soon enlarged to include about 40,000 persons, after Congress acknowledged the historical validity of the claims by expanding the statute of limitations. This allowed the litigation to proceed unhindered by the 1981 to 1996 time span.
Uncertainty about who qualified as a “Pigford complainant” persisted as thousands more submitted claims. The number reached 61,252 by 2000, and most of these claims were allowed for consideration after passage of the 2008 Farm Bill.
By 2010, about 16,000 complainants received more than $1 billion in “direct payments, loan payments, and tax relief.” These direct payments threatened to deplete the $100 million in funds allocated under the Farm Bill to make the remaining qualified complainants whole. Consequently, additional relief was sought.
“I am glad to see that this day has finally come. For years, Black farmers have faced discrimination—not only from businesses, but from the very government that was meant to protect them. The U.S. District Court’s approval of the settlement is a major step forward in closing an ugly chapter of USDA’s civil rights history. Not only will this agreement provide overdue relief; but it will provide justice to African American farmers who have been disenfranchised,” said chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, (D-Mo.)
John W. Boyd Jr., founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association, hailed the ruling granting the motion to certify and approve the settlement in this historic discrimination case.
“Today, because of a Congress that was willing to once again waive the statute of limitations and to appropriate $1.25 billion to help further redress the historic discrimination against African American farmers, the court is pleased to approve the settlement agreement proposed by the moving plaintiffs, and endorsed by the United States, as fair, reasonable, and adequate.”
Boyd added, “Today is an important day, in fact a truly historic day for the nation’s Black farmers and for all of those who worked so hard to give every farmer their day in court so they may be compensated for the government’s discrimination.”
Boyd reminded the farmers there is still more work to do. “It is also important for the farmers to know that all cases must be adjudicated before the payments go out to the farmers. After all we have been through, justice always finds its way home. I have been praying for this day.
“The settlement isn’t perfect, but we’re glad the judge finally resolved the situation. The farmers need their money. But it’s unfortunate it took so long. Many of them have died waiting while this struggle played out.”
By Valencia Mohammed
Trice Edney News Wire
Taking Black people off the land—when they have been able to buy and occupy it—whether by starving Black owners of funds, seeds and farm equipment; by outright KKK-type murder and intimidation, or through other nefarious means, has been as regular in America as night following day.
This has especially been the case in the agricultural sector, where making a living was never easy even for the hardworking and resilient.
The Senate’s Gang of Eight have put together an 844-page monstrosity known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, legislation that President Barack Obama says he “basically approves” of.
The crafters of this essentially unreadable bill were senators Dick Durbin (Illinois), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Michael Bennett (D-Colo.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.).
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Still, the stage was set for former President Bill Clinton to elevate it even more.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. —The sentiments were pretty much the same: Each speaker at a rally at Temple Church of God in Christ in Memphis did not shrink from explaining what they believe to be an injustice heaped upon Black farmers who were discriminated against by the United States government.
The first Friday of the month is a day when economists like me are riveted to the news. We want to know what’s up with the unemployment rate, and with the changes that have taken place in the last month. Last week, our nation learned that we treaded water. The unemployment rate remained at a high of 9.1 percent, 8 percent for White folks, and 16 percent for Black folks.
Some pundits were jazzed at the rates, thinking that they meant we are doing OK. What’s OK? The real unemployment rate for African Americans is close to 30 percent.