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House Subcommittee Hears From Black Farmers

posted on June 22, 2007

When it comes to "safety nets", the definition of "how much is too much" has always been up to debate. Last week, Market to Market reported the Environmental Working Group had posted an on-line database of subsidy beneficiaries. More than 750,000 people have visited the site since it was created on June 12.

But for many producers, farm programs remain a distant dream. As the Farm Bill continues its arduous journey through Congress, there are still farmers who face an even slower resolution to past wrongs.

In 1999, Pigford v Glickman awarded black farmers a record $2.3 BILLION in damages for past discriminatory practices. Despite the fact that USDA agreed to pay eligible farmers $50,000 as a remedy, the vast majority of those eligible say they've never seen a dime.

House Subcommittee Hears From Black Farmers

John Boyd, President National Black Farmers Association: "And I want to tell this committee today, black farmers have never had a choice! We need the assistance, the help, of this committee."

This week, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony from John Boyd, President of the National Black Farmers Association, about discriminatory practices within the USDA.

John Boyd, President National Black Farmers Association: "After Secretary Glickman left the department, I think things have gone from bad to worse. I think Glickman did try."

At issue is the payment of $2.3 billion dollars to black farmers in 1999 for discriminatory farm loan practices. The case, Pigford v Glickman, ended in the largest civil rights settlement in U.S. history, but the vast majority of the funds have never been paid.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York: "This injustice has gone on for far too many years. And quite frankly, I find it deeply disturbing that this matter could have been resolved years ago, if the agencies responsible for protecting the rights of family farmers, had not done their best to undermine those rights."

Following a two-year investigation, the Environmental Working Group, or EWG, claimed USDA officials hired Justice Department lawyers to block the payments. The EWG and the National Black Farmers Association recommended that Congress order USDA to reevaluate the merits of claims that were rejected.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa: "More than 75,000 farmers once again have been shut out of the process."

And Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa has been working in Congress on behalf of those denied restitution.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa: "Despite these good intentions, the expeditious resolution of thens of thousands of claims has not occurred."

Tags: African Americans agriculture Congress farmers government news race USDA