The National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) is organizing the actions. The final rally will take place here February 15 at 11:00 a.m. outside the USDA building, located on the National Mall at Jefferson Drive between 12th and 14th streets.
In 1999 Black farmers won a settlement in the historic Pigford v. Glickman class-action lawsuit. The suit challenged the USDAs discriminatory treatment of Black farmers by denying equal access to funding and other services received by similarly situated white farmers. The discrimination forced thousands of Black farmers off their land.
The court ordered the government agency to give claimants a $50,000 tax-exempt payment, debt forgiveness, and preferential treatment on future loan applications. However, 86 percent of the 94,000 Black farmers who filed claims were turned down, overwhelmingly due to stringent deadlines imposed by the government without adequate notice.
In 2008 up to $100 million was included as part of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act to compensate those farmers who missed the deadline. Although the money has been included in two federal budgets it has yet to be approved in a spending authorization bill. Divided among the tens of thousands of potentially eligible farmers, this equals a paltry amount of less than $2,000 each.
Since May 2009, President Obama has requested $1.15 billion in the federal budget to compensate Black farmers, but no serious effort has been made to gain Congresss approval of the funds.
We want to be more visible and urge farmers who havent been to Washington to press the issue, explained John Boyd, president of the NBFA in a phone interview with the Militant. Were going back out in the streets and let the public and the media help try the case, he said.
The situation for Black farmers hasnt gotten any better, Robert Binion, 60, of Clanton, Alabama, said in a separate phone interview. Were still fighting the same fight. Black farmers are still being denied loans, while other farmers get them.
Binion, a small peach farmer, has been working to build support for the February 10 farmers rally at the Alabama capitol in Montgomery. A longtime leader of the NAACP in Chilton County, Binion has been holding meetings with Black farmers in Alabama over the last year to discuss how to advance their fight against the USDA.
For more information, contact the NBFA at (800) 891-1148 or visit blackfarmers.org.
Susan LaMont contributed to this article.
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