NC black farmers filing claims in USDA settlement – WRAL

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Black farmers in eastern North Carolina are lining up to talk to lawyers about claiming part of a more than $1 billion settlement with the federal government before time runs out.

Meetings are scheduled between Thursday and Saturday in Fayetteville for farmers who may be eligible to receive payments. (More)

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Black Farmers’ Advocacy Group to Appeal ‘Pigford II’ Ruling – Source: Big Government

WASHINGTON — A federal judge has agreed to a settlement involving a class of at least 40,000 black farmers who claim they were discriminated against by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and who missed the deadline for an earlier settlement.

U.S. Dist. Judge Paul L. Friedman certified a class of plaintiffs aggregated in 23 separate complaints, including one made by the Memphis-based Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Inc., and its president, Thomas Burrell. (Read more)

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JUSTICE FOR BLACK FARMERS by William Reed Columnist

My hope is that the farmers and their families who were denied access to USDA loans and programs will be made whole and will have the chance to rebuild their lives and their businesses – Barack Obama

It’s time President Barack Obama paid up on Pigford.

Pigford represents a landmark case of racial discrimination in America and illustrates how government leaders have, and continue to use a plethora of tricks to avoid paying Blacks their just due for wrongs do for wrongs committed against them in America. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been the bane of American racism and held the reputation of “The Last Plantation” for decades. Twelve years after the USDA agreed to settle the discrimination illustrated in the Pigford case, the money promised remains unpaid.

Pigford is proof positive of institutional racism in America. Occasionally patterns of racism are scheduled for righting. In 1999 federal courts ruled that the USDA engaged in racist practices by denying financial help to economically distressed Black farmers. North Carolina farmer Timothy Pigford, along with hundreds of other Black farmers, won their class-action discrimination lawsuit against then-Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman when Pigford v. Glickman discovered that between 1981 and 1996 “minorities received less than their fair share of USDA funds for crops and disaster payments and loans. The case was settled out of court and about 15,000 farmers were paid a total in excess of $900 million. But Pigford continued with tens of thousands of claimants who filed claims after the settlement deadline. Now many in Congress and the federal government seek to deny these farmers their due.

Payment for Pigford is mocked by many. Flooding damage to mid-western farms along the Missouri River provided Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Steve King (R-Iowa) a press audience. Reporters asked them if their calls for drastic cuts in federal spending would mean less money for emergency aid to help beleaguered farmers. King responded that there would be more money for the mostly White farmers if the government was not paying so much to settle cases involving racial discrimination against Black farmers. Presidential candidate Bachmann joined King in saying that the mid-western farmers deserved the money and charged that a large percentage of the USDA settlement consisted of "fraudulent claims". "King said "I’d like to apply that money to the people that are under water right now” and characterized the Black farmers’ suit as “modern-day reparations.”

Despite having won the largest civil rights discrimination settlement in history, Black farmers are still struggling to get paid. Flagrant discrimination has dominated Black lives on farms in America. Although the U.S. government never followed through on its promise of “40 acres and a mule” to freed slaves, and in spite of systematic processes and programs to stymie their efforts African-Americans were able to establish a foothold in Southern agriculture. Black land ownership peaked in 1910, when 218,000 African-American farmers had ownership stakes in 15 million acres of land. But, through the machinations of southern bureaucrats and the USDA, by 1992 Black ownership numbers had dwindled to 2.3 million acres held by 18,000 farmers. The problem is the number of Black farmers that have been forced off their land. In 1920, one of out seven U.S. farms was Black-owned and operated; but by 1992 Black farmers operated just one of every 100 farms.

Pigford shows America’s legacy of slavery, segregation and Jim Crow. Black farmers have been done a series of injustices and those who have lost family land and legacies shouldn’t be slandered as bums looking for a handout. The Pigford settlement was not reverse racism, or for undeserving people trying to pull some scam on the government. It was the end result of a thorough legal process “to make them whole.”

Many African Americans are owed “a debt” of reparations. But for Black farmers the USDA was an agency that never played fair with them. The USDA caused generations of Black farmers enormous economic hardships; now viable steps toward funding Pigford and Black farmers’ claims are in order.

(William Reed is available for speaking/seminar projects via BaileyGroup.org)

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William Reed Columnist

 

Obama Administration’s Efforts Will Bring Finality to Longstanding Claims of Discrimination in USDA Program Delivery – Source: USDA

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2011 – As part of continued efforts to close the chapter on allegations that discrimination occurred at USDA in past decades, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Assistant Attorney General Tony West today announced the establishment of a process to resolve the claims of Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers who assert that they were discriminated against when seeking USDA farm loans. (Read more)

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Butterfield Applauds Pigford Funding

U.S. House of Representative SealU.S. Representative G. K. Butterfield

First District of North Carolina


For Release:  Immediate

Date:  November 30, 2010

Contact:  Ken Willis
Phone:  (202) 225-3101

Butterfield Applauds Pigford Funding

Washington, D.C. – Congressman G. K. Butterfield applauded today’s vote to approve funding to settle African American farmers’ and Native Americans’ lawsuits against the federal government.

“Passing this legislation means finally living up to our obligation to farmers who deserved much better from their federal government,” Butterfield said. “It brings an end to an unfortunate chapter in our history.”

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 256-152 to approve funding $4.5 billion in settlement agreements that have long been winding their way through Congress. The funds will settle thousands of racial discrimination claims by African-American farmers and accusations of federal mismanagement of American Indian trust accounts.

Butterfield said the legislation authorizing the settlements now heads to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign the bill.

The legislation would provide $1.15 billion to settle up to 74,000 outstanding claims by black farmers that they were discriminated against by the U.S. Department of Agriculture between 1983 and 1997 – the so-called Pigford II claimants. This settlement agreement was reached in February, and builds upon an initial $100 million authorized by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill.

It would also provide $3.4 billion to settle a class action suit by Native Americans against the Department of the Interior. The case was settled in December, 2009. Both cases required appropriated funds to begin compensation of eligible claimants.

On April 14, 1999, the court approved a settlement agreement – known as Pigford – for all claims raised in the class action suit. The suit claimed that black farmers were discriminated against by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the basis of race. Review of the claims began almost immediately, and the initial disbursement of checks to qualifying farmers began on November 9, 1999. The case was named for lead plaintiff and Beaufort County native Timothy Pigford.

Butterfield explained that a number of problems emerged from claims process. Due to circumstances such as Hurricane Floyd, many filed too late to be considered or did not have their claims judged on the merits.

For the large number of farmers who did not have their cases heard on the merits because of late filings, a process for so-called Pigford II petitions was established by the 2008 Farm Bill. The new process provided up to $100 million for potential settlement costs. The Obama Administration had requested an additional $1.15 billion for these potential settlement costs in its FY2011 budget.

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Black Farmers

Butterfield Urges Senate to Approve Pigford II and Cobell Settlement Funds

U.S. House of Representative SealU.S. Representative G. K. Butterfield

First District of North Carolina


 

For Release:  Immediate

 

 

Date:  August 3, 2010

 

Contact:  Ken Willis
Phone:  (202) 225-3101


 

Butterfield Urges Senate to Approve Pigford II and Cobell Settlement Funds

 

Washington, D.C. – Congressman G. K. Butterfield is urging the U.S Senate to approve legislation that would provide funding to settle black farmers’ and Native Americans’ lawsuits against the federal government.
 
“It’s time to put people before politics, and vote to fund the Pigford II and Cobell settlements,” Butterfield said. “Unfortunately, Senate Republicans continue to stand to in the way of righting these longstanding wrongs.
 
Republicans have rejected legislation with funding to settle these cases four different times over the past three months. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated that he will make a request today for unanimous consent to settle thousands of racial discrimination claims by African-American farmers and accusations of federal mismanagement of American Indian trust accounts.

 

The legislation would provide $1.15 billion to settle up to 74,000 outstanding claims by black farmers that they were discriminated against by the U.S. Department of Agriculture between 1983 and 1997, the so-called Pigford II claimants. This settlement was reached in February, and builds upon an initial $100 million authorized by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill.

 

It would also provide $3.4 billion to settle a class action suit by Native Americans against the Department of the Interior. The case was settled in December, 2009, but has not been funded.

 

“While black farmers continue to struggle, Senate Republicans continue to deny them justice for years of discrimination,” Butterfield said. “It’s time to join Senate Democrats in supporting America’s black farmers.”