Black Farmers Discriminated Against, Start Getting Checks

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Boyd shown with President Obama

[Economic Justice]

Black farmers historically discriminated against in agricultural loans have finally started getting payments, The Clarion Ledger's Deborah Barfield Berry reports.

After years of waiting, black farmers began receiving payments this week as part of a $1.2 billion settlement in their discrimination case against federal agriculture officials.

About 18,000 farmers are expected to get checks over the next few days. Many live in the South. “After all these years and all the fighting, this is what it’s all about,” said John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, which pushed Congress for the settlement. “It doesn’t take away what the government has done to us, but for those who receive the payments it will make a difference in their lives.”

About 40,000 black farmers filed claims in the $1.2 billion settlement, which ended a discrimination case against the federal Agriculture Department. President Barack Obama signed the settlement into law in December of 2010.

The case said agriculture officials denied loans and other assistance to black farmers because of their race. The settlement marks the second round of payments for the farmers. Thousands received payments as part of a 1999 class-action settlement. The second round, dubbed Pigford II, pays farmers who missed the first filing deadline.

Many farmers will receive payments of $62,500, including $50,000 for the claim and $12,500 for taxes. Of the $1.2 billion, about $91 million was approved for attorney fees.

Farmers were initially told they would receive payments in 2012. The vetting process, however, took much longer. Critics of the settlement said that it sets the stage for fraud and that thousands of black farmers were already paid in the first case.

But advocates for black farmers said the payments are long overdue for years of harm caused by discriminatory treatment. “I am pleased this chapter of discrimination in the history of the Department of Agriculture is closed and bureaucracy will no longer keep these farmers from receiving their due justice,” said Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The payments could lead to an infusion of money back into farming, said Adell Brown Jr., vice chancellor for research at Southern University Agricultural Research & Extension Center. The center has worked with black farmers in Louisiana who filed claims in the first and second cases.

Many farmers who had filed claims have since died. Of the 18,000 claims approved, about 4,000 to 5,000 were estate claims. Boyd said his organization is working with some families whose deceased parents had filed claims. “This is not a great trade-off by any means, but I think the funds will make a difference,” Boyd said. “It’s a bittersweet victory.”

To contact Deborah Barfield Berry, email dberry@gannett.com

 

Contact Information: John W. Boyd, Jr. is available for interviews and can be reached at JohnWesleyBoydJr@gmail.com

www.NationalBlackFarmersAssociation.org

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