Hope for Black Farmers in the U.S. Southeast
The United States Department of Agriculture Announces a Settlement in the Black Farmer Lawsuit
I had heard for a while from folks at the Rural Coalition** an awesome alliance of organizers in the US Southeast & Appalachia that includes migrant & indigenous workers and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives among others- about the ongoing claims against the complicit racism of the USDA. This settlement is good news on the horizon:
ATLANTA…After years of negotiations and questions, Black farmers who have never been able to have their claims of discrimination against the United States Department of Agriculture settled, there is finally some hope. The Obama administration and attorneys representing Black farmers have reached a settlement in the second phase of the lawsuit originally filed by Black farmers against the USDA in 1999. “The long-awaited settlement in this second phase of the Pigford lawsuit is a major step forward,” said Ralph Paige, Executive Director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund.
The Rural Coalition wrote an open letter to the 43rd President, which “outlined in detail some of the most egregious situations within USDA that cry out for immediate response.” It says in addition, we have outlined a number of critical steps that we believe are essential to arriving at a climate of equity at USDA. For many years, we have repeatedly called for action to hold USDA personnel accountable for their failings on racial matters, and make clear to all employees that there are consequences for discriminating. It is this critical issue that we will first address. Its worth checking that letter out, as it goes into more detail about the crazy shit that the Department of Agriculture somehow got away with for decades.
the news though is also that
“The $1.25 billion settlement proposed by the Obama administration is a vast improvement over the $100 million offered by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill. Now there is hope that the thousands of black farmers whose cases have been pending can receive awards and damages after decades of discrimination,” Paige continued.
There is still much that needs to be done in the case before Black farmers can be offered some relief. Congress needs to appropriate the money and the court needs to approve the settlement. “It is hoped that all of this will be done quickly” said Paige, “so that farmers can proceed with processing their claims and have some resolution.”
As for some history and more context, you can click here for an impressive timeline of Black Loss and Land Acquisition, and you can check out more blogs on black farmers here.
Note: The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/LAF, now in its 43rd year, assists Black family farmers across the South with farm management, debt restructuring, alternative crop suggestions, marketing expertise and a whole range of services to ensure family farm survivability
**the Rural Coalition is an alliance of over 90 culturally diverse community based groups in the United States and Mexico who collaborate to advance social justice and sustainable development in rural areas.
Since forming in 1978, leaders of poor communities and communities of color–including farmworker groups, indigenous communities in the US and Mexico, minority, indigenous and limited resource farmer organizations, cooperatives, and grassroots groups in poor communities in Appalachia and elsewhere — have banded together to confront structural injustices in policies, programs and delivery of government services; share skills, encouragement and strategies; seek and leverage resources to support their organizations and their work; make government entities more responsive; and support one another in local and global struggles.