Black farmers continue to wait for funds promised to them as settlement of a discrimination case against the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
According to CNN, nearly 30,000 Black farmers should have been granted $1.25 billion after it was found that they were denied loans by the Agriculture Department because of the color of their skin. When they applied for the various subsidies, loans and grants, the department often told them they didn’t have the funding, while the same requests from White farmers were fulfilled.
A federal judge in the 1997 case Pigford v. Glickman ruled that the farmers should receive $50,000 each to settle the claims of discrimination. A decade later, the money had not been paid out and the case was revisited in a 2008 bill sponsored by then-senator Barack Obama, who named the measure “Pigford II.” As president, Obama proposed $1.25 billion in funding for the measure in February, but Congress has yet to appropriate the money, which is part of a war-funding bill currently under consideration.
“I’m frustrated,” John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, told NPR.Com. “I’m frustrated that I’m still begging for votes in the Senate for something that should have been done years ago. And I’m frustrated to see this country—the country … we live in—we still have not overcome race relations ….”
The Black farmers’ frustrations were reignited after Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod was recently fired. Sherrod was accused of discrimination after an edited video surfaced of her speaking about not fully helping a White farmer protect his land from foreclosure. The video did not provide the full context of those comments, which were part of a story Sherrod told about how she learned to overcome racial distinctions years ago.
“Here was a speech by a Black employee teaching others about race, and she was fired for it,” Ralph Paige, executive director of the Federation of the Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, told The Hill newspaper. “That should be the lesson that is learned. It should never happen again.”
According to CNN, the funds for the farmers are among other domestic spending measures expected to be stripped out next week when the Senate reviews the spending bill, which will appropriate further money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If the funds are approved, Boyd told CBS News, “It would be a very bittersweet victory for us because I have seen so many Black farmers pass while waiting for justice.”