President of the Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association (BFAA)
Although no farmer has notified the Black Farmers & Agriculturists Association''s (BFAA) national office of having received payment, BFAA has heard from several sources that checks for $50,000 each have gone to more than 2,400 black farmers as the first payments from the government under a civil rights settlement between Black farmers and the Agriculture Department resulting from the Pigford v Glickman Class Action Law Suit...
The farmers are among 18,000 producers who filed claims under the settlement, and about “70 percent of those are likely to be approved,” said Alexander Pires, their lead attorney. Under terms of the settlement, farmers who can show some evidence of discrimination are entitled to $50,000 each and have outstanding loans forgiven. An additional $12,500 is being sent to the Internal Revenue Service in the name of each farmer to cover the federal income taxes that he or she would owe on the settlement.
The checks are mailed as a panel of retired judges approves the claims. “The debt forgiveness is averaging $30,000 to $40,000 per farmer,” Pires said. If farmers are receiving money, then we are happy for those recipients. However, the important issues here are that way too many legitimate claims have been rejected due to "technicalities." Farmers and heirs of former farmers requested more than 40,000 applications. 2,400 is a small number to claim any kind of victory. Many of these plaintiffs are no longer farming because the USDA put them out of business. Yet, one is given the opinion that since there are only approximately 18,000 "producers" left, then that should be the maximum number of plaintiffs.
We must remember that in the early 1980s there were over 50,000 Black farmers. And the loss of more than 13 million acres of land did not occur with some 18,000 Black farmers/landowners. We are strongly suggesting that each Black farmer or former farmer who receives a letter of denial to contact the BFAA office immediately (252) 826-2800. We must turn more of the rejections into acceptable claims. The USDA and the US Justice Department are playing hardball and expect a large percentage of the Black farmers to give up once they have been rejected at the first level.
We also say to those who have been fortunate enough to receive their settlement, not to immediately return these funds to the "white powers that be" by going out and immediately spending the money, but to consider some options that will last much longer. Farmers should make "prudent decisions that will have maximum benefits for them and their families." We are still calling for a rally in Washington, DC on December 13th to bring attention to the issues of the Settlement, denials, and the none compliance of Civil Rights policies at USDA.
For additional information contact Gary Grant at (252) 826-2800 or e-mail: Tillery@aol.com
RETURN TO BLACK FARMERS AND AGRICULTURALISTS ASSOCIATION INDEX PAGE