Frustrated and Depress Black Farmers


Well-Known Member
Oct 25, 2005
Anguilla's King Evans says black farmers in the Delta have been treated shamefully for generations
Published March 4, 2006, 10:30 pm, Delta Democrat Times

ANGUILLA - He is bitter and spitting venom. He will not be satisfied until someone with the U.S. Department of Agriculture either pays up or justifies the delay.

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This just indicates that the government is taking its merry time with black farmers. If you havent heard it before from me this ordeal has become frustrating and depressing. On top of that the US Department of Agriculture still discriminate till this day. Oh the psychological problems with the ruthless white man remain.

Black farmers want to revive civil rights suit
By Ana Radelat

WASHINGTON - Like thousands of other black farmers in Mississippi, Calvin Beasley was supposed to benefit from the largest civil rights settlement in U.S. history - a $2.3 billion federal agreement to compensate farmers who were denied financial assistance decades before due to discrimination.

But that compensation never came. Today, after growing cotton in Humphreys County for more than 25 years, Beasley is facing bankruptcy.

"I waited for a long time, and now it's too late," he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has paid out almost $1 billion in claims to black farmers who say they suffered discrimination. Many received a $50,000 check and some had their debts to the agency forgiven.

But about five years after the first settlement checks were sent to black farmers, the program is beset with complaints, criticisms and lawsuits. Those problems have led to a new attempt in Congress to revive the black farmers' historic 1997 lawsuit against the Agriculture Department.

Beasley, 55, is one of thousands of Mississippi farmers whose claims for compensation were denied. Farmers who filed claims had to prove that they applied for a USDA loan between 1981 and 1996 and that their application was denied due to racial discrimination.

About 94,000 black farmers applied for compensation, but most of those applications - 81,000 - were rejected, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Beasley said his claim for compensation was based on the USDA's rejection of several loan applications he submitted about 20 years ago. And he said the agency approved other loan requests too late, sometimes months after planting season.

But Beasley couldn't prove he had been treated differently than white farmers in the area. That would have required him to submit financial documents from his white neighbors.

"We didn't have access to that type of information, so we were lost," Beasley said.

He hired an attorney in Greenville to appeal his case. He lost the appeal.

Most rejected compensation claims involved farmers who missed the Sept. 15, 2000, filing deadline. Only housebound farmers or those hit by a natural disaster were allowed to file late.

By Dec. 31, 2004, 2,660 farmers in Mississippi had received about $133.5 million in compensation. The claims of another 19,000 farmers who missed the filing deadline were denied.

Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala., is hoping to reopen the door for Beasley and thousands of other farmers shut out of settlements.

Under Davis' legislation, farmers who say they didn't know about the Sept. 15, 2000, filing deadline may resubmit their claims.

The legislation also would require the USDA to supply financial information about loans awarded to white farmers in a claimant's state. The department would have to delay foreclosures against black farmers who could prove discrimination.

"Unresolved issues around the farmer's suits should not be swept under the rug or deferred to some constantly uncertain date in the future," Davis said. "Too many farmers ... have already waited too long for a correction to the unlawful discrimination they endured for years."

Davis' legislation has been discussed at hearings, but it's not clear whether House GOP leaders will bring the bill to a vote.

The USDA's compensation program also has been tarnished by a few, high-profile cases of fraud. A Florida college professor and a USDA official in Arkansas are among those who have been charged with filing false claims.

The Bush administration insists the program is a success. To make sure the USDA has stopped discriminatory practices, President Bush appointed Vernon Parker, a black lawyer from Arizona, to head the agency's civil rights office.

Parker, who recently left the USDA, said he traveled to Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia to listen to complaints by black farmers. He said he's happy with the settlement.

"We've made some historical changes," he said.

David Frantz, a lawyer with one of the firms who filed the 1997 class action lawsuit, also defends the settlement.

"We think (sending) $1 billion into the black farming community has made a difference," he said.

The money helped the number of black farmers grow by 10 percent from 1992 to 2002, Frantz said.

But even some black farmers who received settlements were unhappy after learning that the $50,000 they received was taxable.

Tony Miller, 51, a former pig farmer in Bolton, said he is still fighting over taxes and other issues involving his settlement.

"I've had to pay taxes on it three different times," he complained.

Miller said he had hoped the settlement would help him meet tougher environmental standards that he said forced him out of farming. He once raised 1,100 hogs on 44 acres.

"People are moving out of the city into rural communities and don't want a hog farm as a neighbor," Miller said.

He also said that racism wasn't the only thing that fostered discrimination at the USDA. He said the agency favored large farms over small ones.

"To deny a small family farmer financial help is a shame," Miller said.

Jimmy Robertson, a Jackson lawyer who filed a suit on behalf of white Mississippi farmers who also claimed mistreatment by the USDA, agrees.

"The USDA wasn't discriminating just against black people," Robertson said. "It was discriminating against poor people. God knows, black people took it on the chin, but the problems were more widespread."

Federal judges dismissed the case filed by the white farmers

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