Magazine article In These Times

Black Farmers Still Losing Ground

Magazine article In These Times

Black Farmers Still Losing Ground

Article excerpt

IT ONLY TOOK 11 years and 10 floor votes. In late November, Congress finally agreed to pay black farmers $1.15 billion in compensation for decades of discrimination in lending practices and access to U.S. agricultural subsidy programs. The claims stem from a civil- rights lawsuit settlement reached in 1999 between 400 farmers and the government.

But even as payouts begin, Americas black farmers are still losing groundliterally. "It's not restitution for what's been done," says Gary R. Grant, national president of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association (BFAA). still don't understand that farmers are continuing to lose."

The number of U.S. farms operated by black farmers decreased by a staggering 97 percent between 1920 and 2007 (925,710 farms to 30,599) farms, according to government statistics.

The BFAA, a national nonprofit organization based in Tillery, N. C, with more than 1,500 members across the country, works to reverse black farmers' losses by connecting black farmers with services and monitoring the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). For the newly settled lawsuit, known as Pigford II, BFAA worked with a coalition of other black farmers' organizations to lobby for relief through Congress, Grant said. The group is now helping claimants obtain their due in the Claims Resolution Act of 2010.

The total sum to be claimed by black farmers is $1.25 billion, as Congress approved $100 million under the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008. (They aren't the only group seeing justice: The Claims Settlement Act of 2010 also included $3.4 billion in restitution for Native American farmers, who won a lawsuit against the government for losses due to mishandled trust funds. In October, another group of Native American farmers won $680 million in a discrimination lawsuit filed against the USDA. …

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