The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Historic Success for African American Farmers in the 2008 Farm Bill

Posted on June 25, 2008 at 03:23 PM

The Delta Grassroots Caucus would like to congratulate the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) on Congress’ passage of the 2008 farm bill, which contained a provision now being praised by black farmers for including about $100 million to settle their decade-old discrimination suit against the USDA. John W. Boyd, Jr., President of the NBFA, has worked tirelessly with the Congress for eight years to see that justice is done for the African American farmers in the eight-state Delta region and across America, and we are delighted that his work has finally been rewarded.

We have African American farmers in our region who need to be informed about this and take advantage of this opportunity to have justice done. FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE SEE THE NATIONAL BLACK FARMERS ASSOCIATION WEBSITE AT WWW.BLACKFARMERS.ORG

Congress over-rode President Bush’s veto of the $290 billion farm bill, which provides a strong nutrition section, more funding to promote healthy eating in disadvantaged areas, includes about $100 million to settle the African American farmers’ decade-old discrimination suit against the USDA, has strong provisions for alternative energy, conservation and rural development, assistance for food banks and community food projects, and a new Healthy Food Urban Enterprise Development Program that increases access to fruits and vegetables for the underserved.

The bill’s supporters included Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL), who has many admirers in the Delta Caucus, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), who introduced the legislation in the Senate, and was supported by every member of the Congressional Black Caucus. The provision regarding African American farmers gives relief for the farmers who filed late claims in the historic Pigford v. Veneman settlement for discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In that case, African American farmers had claimed the USDA discriminated against them based on race and had failed to investigate or properly respond to complaints from black farmers from 1983 to 1997.

This commendable provision in the farm bill regarding African American farmers is another indication of how much we ought to commend those Members of Congress from both parties who supported this vital piece of legislation for our region. The bill had many beneficial provisions for nutrition, rural development, agriculture, conservation, alternative energy, and its key supporters included Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), Senators Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor and Representatives Marion Berry and Mike Ross (D-AR), Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA), Sen. Mary Landrieu and Rep. Charles Melancon (D-LA), Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL), Rep. John Tanner (D-TN), Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL), and many others, and all of the above Members have excellent working relationships with the Delta Grassroots Caucus.

President Boyd of the NBFA told the Delta Caucus that he is very pleased by Congress’ decision to “finally hear our cries for justice, and we look forward to working with the Delta Caucus in helping to get the word out to all the farmers about this historic provision in the farm bill of 2008.”

Boyd recently told Jet magazine that “Although this will not cover the costs of all the outstanding claims, it represents a significant commitment from Congress.” Boyd, a Virginia farmer, and other Black farmers have lobbied Congress some eight years for redress.

As a Presidential appointee at USDA in the Clinton administration, I well recall working with President Boyd to promote minority farmers’ participation in farmers’ markets, as well as to fight the troubling legacy of discrimination at USDA. It has been a long, courageous road that John Boyd and the African American farmers have had to travel, but they persevered and now we look forward to seeing justice done.

Below is a brief summary of the provision in the farm bill: This provision gives farmers who filed claims under the Pigford v. Veneman case a chance to get their day in court:

–Establishes a fund to allow cases to be heard. The Pigford v.Veneman case involved discrimination claims in USDA programs against black farmers

–The case was settled and black farmers were guaranteed some funds in the consent degree

–Due to inadequate notice and arbitrary deadlines, many farmers did not get their day in court.

–The Farm Bill gives victims an additional 2 years to file claims

–Establishes a $100 million fund that can be replenished by Congress to settle these late filed claims

The bill also addresses a “subsidy gap” between black farmers and others that expanded dramatically in the past decade from $2,225 per recipient in 1995 to nearly $10,000 per recipient in 2005.

Sen. Barack Obama, who co-sponsored the bill, said it “provides America’s hard-working farmers and ranchers with more support and more predictability … I am also pleased that the bill includes my proposal to help thousands of African-American farmers get their discrimination claims reviewed under the Pigford settlement.”

The Delta Caucus looks forward to working with the NBFA and President Boyd to get the word out. “We at the NBFA are now working quickly to prepare a public-awareness campaign in 42 states reaching out to all 74,000 late tilers and those who made inquiries to inform these Black farmers of next steps in the process,” Boyd said.

We would like to thank Sam Scruggs of the Mississippi County Equal Opportunity Commission in Blytheville, Arkansas, and other Delta Caucus partners for their interest in this issue and getting the word out to African American farmers about this opportunity. Thank you very much. Lee Riley Powell, Delta Grassroots Caucus (202) 360-6347