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- One-on-One Interview with Gary Grant, President of Black Farmers Association (FCN, 10-31-2005)
- Black farmers denied justice (FCN, 08-10-2004)
- Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association
- Help self: What Must be Done With The Negroes? (Honorable Elijah Muhammad, 1965)
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – Chanting, “We need farms, not arms” and “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. The last plantation has got to go,” hundreds of Black farmers assembled near the Department of Agriculture Apr. 26, marking 10 years since the birth of the grassroots movement for justice in the farm system of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
With their customary wagon drawn by mules named “Struggle” and “40 Acres,” leaders of both the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) and the National Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association (NBFAA), combined their forces to once again complain that racism within the agency was blocking the implementation of an historic court settlement, agreed to seven years ago, and to hear pledges of support from members of the Congressional Black Caucus, labor leaders, civil rights leaders and the Democratic National Committee.
Of the 94,000 Black farmers who won the settlement, more than 81,000 still have not been paid, complained John Boyd, president of NBFA. Ironically, even as USDA denied more than 80 percent of the claims it agreed to pay, practically all the cases appealed to a special court-appointed monitor have overruled the agency in favor of the Black farmers.
“We want our land! We want to farm! We want equal treatment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” Mr. Boyd told the rally.
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed to settle a class action discrimination case brought against them by Black farmers from across the nation, based on years of unjust treatment by the agency,” Rep. Artur Davis (D-Al.) said in a statement. “It’s unusual for Congress to re-visit a settlement established by a government agency, but I would contend that these are extraordinary circumstances. Nine out of 10 claims filed after the settlement have been denied. I cannot imagine that the federal government would have settled the case if 90 percent of the claims had no merit.”
Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) attended and spoke at the rally, promising to await instructions from the farmers, and continue her support for the Black farm movement she articulated in 1993, her first year in Congress.
“When we start working for the federal government, we are told not to sign papers that are going to support Black farmers,” Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, a federal government worker who is a member of the No Fear Coalition, told The Final Call. “We are told to overlook the discrimination against Black farmers. We are told not to support people who look like us and who feed us. We’re government workers that believe that the government should serve the American public, and in the case of the Black farmers the government has miserably failed those farmers, primarily because they are Black farmers.”
She stressed that the federal government must make a complete turnabout in order to live up to its highest standards.
“We’re calling upon the Congress to hold hearings, the President to take action, and for federal workers to blow the whistle when they see corruption in the federal government that impacts Black farmers,” she explained.
The American Farmers Benefits Act of 2005 (HR 4398), a bill introduced by Rep. Davis, would permit at least 60,000 Black farmers to re-file claims deemed “untimely” by the agency, and would stall government loan foreclosures until the cases are decided.
“Black farmers must not be ashamed to organize as Black farmers,” one farmer told the rally. “Our issues are being put on the back-table for every minority.” Food that people in this country eat is being imported, while the jobs producing that food are exported, along with wheat grown in this country, he continued.
Black farmers complain that a century ago, there were one million Black farm families in this country but today–as a result of greed and racist government credit and farm policies such as those Black farmers are now complaining about–there are fewer than 28,000 Black farm families, less than one percent of the national total.