Wednesday, February 17, 2010

African-American Farmers Update: Organizations Demand Compensation for Discrimination

Video News Report on African-American Farmers' Protests

Editorial | Black farmers' plea

February 16, 2010

In a 1999 settlement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture acknowledged that its officials had discriminated against black farmers by systematically delaying or denying loans to help them survive in a tough business. About 15,000 black farmers managed to navigate the paperwork to collect an average of $50,000 each through the class-action suit.

But other black farmers weren't aware that a settlement had been reached, and they missed the deadline to apply. In 2008, Congress agreed to give the estimated 70,000 late-filers additional time to apply — and many did, but they still haven't been paid. That is why a delegation of black farmers are in Washington this week to urge Congress to cough up the cash.

Shame on the Democratic-controlled Congress that cut the $1.5 billion that President Obama included in his first budget for the black farmers. The President included a similar amount in his proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.

This isn't a case of whether discrimination has occurred. It did. Nor is this a case of the government not agreeing to pay. It has, which is why the black farmers are rallying in the capital this week.

“The primary issue now, I think, is that there's not money appropriated to pay the successful claimants,” said Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Though Republicans rightly can be blamed for a lot of things that aren't happening in Washington, in this instance it's the Democrats who need to support their leader by seeing to it that black farmers get their just due.

Justice long delayed is ultimately justice denied, and that's unfair to black farmers, whose numbers continue to dwindle, whose average age today is 60, and who have suffered and been patient for so very long.

February 15, 2010

Black farmers protest delays to settle claims of racial bias

Posted: February 15th, 2010 01:30 PM ET
From CNN Senior Producer Paul Courson

Washington (CNN) - A group representing African-American farmers hopes to persuade Congress to fund a court settlement compensating them for long-standing claims of racial bias in federal farm programs.

But a rally Monday outside the U.S. Department of Agriculture took place on a federal holiday, and only about a dozen black farmers showed up for their cause.

Undeterred by the turnout as well as the fact that they had to shovel snow to create a place to deliver remarks, the group brought crates of corn and packets of seed labeled with messages they plan to deliver to Capitol Hill.

"We are here acting on a law that was enacted in 2008 by Congress," said John Boyd, founder of the National Black Farmers Association. "So this is already law and the black farmers are still waiting."

This month the group has organized demonstrations throughout historically black agricultural areas of the South, including Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Virginia, Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia.

Using Monday's rally outside the Agriculture Department as a culmination of their protest, Boyd and other demonstrators expressed frustration that Congress has yet to approve a budget that would pay for a 1999 class action settlement ordered by a federal judge.

In 2008, lawmakers established a system to review claims of racial bias from more than 70,000 farmers who were denied various types of farm support by the USDA. But Congress has yet to approve the 2010 farm bill, in which President Barack Obama has proposed including more than a $1 billion to cover the compensation claims.

Black Farmers Take Discrimination Case To Congress, USDA

After string of rallies, farmers arrive with corn and seeds bearing message to lawmakers. President acts, now it's Congress' turn, says National Black Farmers Association.

Washington, D.C. (PRWEB) February 15, 2010 -- Black farmers have spoken by the thousands and, on Monday, took their message to the nation's capital: Congress should act now to remedy decades of discrimination. At an event outside of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, John W. Boyd, Jr., president of the National Black Farmers Association (, recounted his week-long journey through the South holding rallies and gathering support.

Unveiling 538 ears of corn, Boyd promised to deliver one to each member of Congress this week, along with packets of Forget-Me-Not seeds urging lawmakers to make compensation for discrimination -- $1.15 billion -- part of the 2010 budget. On Feb. 12, President Obama issued a letter to House Speaker Pelosi adding an amendment to remedy discrimination to his 2010-2011 budget. Now, it's Congress' turn to act.

"Our long journey to justice should now come to a successful close," said Boyd. "We have endured many hardships, waited many years and traveled many miles. Now it's time for Congress to do its part and fund fairness for black farmers."

Boyd logged more than 1,500 miles traveling to a series of rallies, starting on Feb. 6 in Little Rock, AR and including Memphis, TN; Jackson, MS; Montgomery, AL; Columbus, GA; Columbia, SC and Richmond, VA. The rally in Jackson on Feb. 9, drew approximately 1,200 farmers and supporters. You can view photos at and videos at

"Thousands of farmers who can't be in Washington showed their support by traveling long distances through snow and rain to join our rallies," Boyd said. "We're here to represent them and get the job done."

Signs are encouraging. On Thursday, Feb. 4, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded this way to a question about the black farmers settlement and President Obama: "Clearly, it's something important to him. It's been an issue that has been worked on by the federal government now in several different administrations and dating back many years. Obviously, ensuring that justice is done is important in this situation."

The New York Times led a chorus of newspaper editorials calling for justice: Boyd himself published this piece in The Huffington Post: And elected officials have weighed in with support, including Sen. Jim Webb, Rep. Artur Davis, Rep. Sanford Bishop, Rep. Jim Clyburn, and Rep. Bobby Scott.

Boyd's next stop is Congress, where he will deliver an ear of corn and packet of Forget-Me-Not seeds to each member while encouraging them to at long last deliver justice to black farmers. For more information, please visit

About National Black Farmers Association:
Founded: 1995 by John Boyd, Jr. of Baskerville, VA

John W. Boyd Jr. is a fourth generation farmer as well as one of America’s most effective defenders of civil rights. He has been featured in The Washington Post, “60 Minutes,” “Nightline,” CNN and as ABC News Tonight’s “Person of the Week.” He is a past nominee for the NAACP’s highest honor, The Springarn Award, and currently ranks as one of Ebony Magazine’s most influential African-Americans.

In 1995, Boyd founded the National Black Farmers Association after encountering the US Department of Agriculture’s discriminatory practices first-hand and meeting many more black farmers who shared this experience. Boyd soon led NBFA members in a march on the White House. He went on to meet with President Clinton and to testify before Congress. The plight of black farmers had caught the nation’s attention, but Boyd’s pursuit of justice continues to this day.

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