Saturday, March 01, 2008

In Support of Our Black Farmers

Sisterdoc is waiting to see what comes of the Farm Bill of 2007. The Farm Bill is legislation introduced by Sen. Obama (D-IL), and if passed it will permit Black farmers to collect their share of a $50 million settlement from the USDA.

According to Black Farmers Justice, the USDA discriminated against Black farmers by denying them government loans and other resources. Instead, the USDA funneled billions of dollars to White farmers, thereby giving them a monopoly on providing food for this nation.

According to a 2004 Washington Post report, in the 1920s there were over 1 million Black farmers. Today, Black farmers are a dying breed at less than 30,000. In a lawsuit brought against the USDA by a North Carolina farmer-- an African American named Timothy Pigford-- the extinction of Black farmers was the government’s plan. Pigford v. Veneman became a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of Black farmers… and they won. Any Black farmer who sought and was denied support from the USDA farm subsidy program from 1981 to 1999 could receive a settlement. But then, the USDA cheated.

Instead of paying up, the USDA, with help from the Justice Department, spent 56,000 attorney hours and more than $12 million fighting the first 129 claims alone. In the end, of the 94,000 farmers who sought to collect their settlement, the USDA turned 81,000 away in a spiteful obstruction of justice. Farm Bill 2007 should get Black farmers justice by allowing them to re-file their claims against the USDA so that they can finally collect their money.

In the meantime, the National Black Farmers Association was formed to organize Black farmers who are determined to hold on to their farms and to fight “foreclosure caused by racial discrimination under the United States Department of Agriculture.”

Sisterdoc wishes our Black farmers every success.

(Image from MSNBC: Dr. John Boyd, Jr. Pres. of the National Black Farmers Assoc.)

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