Black farmers still fighting for fair treatment

To say that Black farmers are getting the run-around in Washington might be something of an understatement. Since 1997 Black farmers have been protesting racial discrimination in loans and access to other services from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In 1997 Timothy Pigford, a farmer from North Carolina and thousands of other farmers sued USDA claiming they had for years been denied government loans and other assistance that routinely went to Whites. The government settled that lawsuit in 1999 and has paid almost 16,000 claims. But problems persist.

There are at least two groups of unhappy farmers, late filers who were a part of legislation enacted last year, and then there is the “late-late group,” according to an aide to a Congressional Black Caucus member who authored last year’s bill. In addition, there are another 9,000 farmers who also want to be compensated for racist treatment at the hands of federal authorities.

For his part, President Barack Obama is proposing that the government provide $1.25 billion to settle the discrimination claims. The White House said the money would be included in the president’s 2010 budget request unveiled May 7.

CBC members requested a meeting with administration officials to discuss the filings. “At a minimum, the CBC should meet with the Obama administration and clarify this filing,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).

What CBC members and Black farmers found particularly disappointing is the fact that as a senator, Mr. Obama authored legislation in August 2007 supporting full compensation for the farmers.

“He should remain consistent with his legislation,” said Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), according to a published report. “With the background of this president and his legal knowledge, I’m sure they will take another look at this.”