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Is Pigford v. Glickman Even Enough?

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Through the 20th century, America saw an increase in pressure on small farms. Both white and African American farmers were struggling to keep their farms and families above water in the South.  The U.S Department of Agriculture made loan application approvals depending on the applicant’s credit.

Historically, African Americans were discriminated against and thus had a hard time developing their credit. By the early 20th century, southern states had established one-party political rule by whites under the Democratic Party.

For some additional context, Mississippi, where black farmers made up 2/3 of the total of farmers in the Delta in the late 19th century, had mostly lost their land by 1910 and had to go to sharecropping.

 

In April of 1999, US District Court Judge, Paul L. Friedman approved a settlement agreement and consent decree in the Pigford v. Glickman case.

This was a class-action discrimination suit between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and black farmers. This suit claimed that the USDA had discriminated against black farmers based on race. The USDA failed to investigate and properly attend to complaints that were filed from 1983-1997 by the farmers.

Today we know that almost $1 billion USD has been paid to or credited to less than 20,000 farmers to date under the settlement’s consent decree.

This decree shows us what is reportedly the largest civil rights settlement to date.

 

Still, more than 70,000 farmers were told they were too late to files and thus were ineligible for relief and their claims would not be heard. Due to delay tactics by the US government, more than 70,000 farmers were treated as filing late and thus did not have their claims heard. In 2008 another Farm Bill was passed to provide for additional claims to be considered.

By December 2010, $1.2 billion was granted by congress for the Pigford II, which is the second cases’ additional settlement. However, all repayments have come well under what any individual farmer is estimated to need to reenter this livelihood: $250,000.

 

After reading up on this case I am extremely disappointed and disheartened by how unfairly the African American Farmers have been treated in this settlement. I understand that not every farmer would be able to receive retribution but the criterion for eligibility is unfair.

One thing that concerns me the most is the constant deadlines.
I understand they must cap the funds at some point but if they are going to continually reopen the settlement then why not have it on a rolling basis?
Why have applications be based on credit if a group will be at a disadvantage?

 

Additionally, preliminary estimates from the claim’s administrator, suggest that approximately 17,000 to 19,000 claims will be positively adjudicated under Pigford II, a lower proportion of successful claims than under Pigford I.

At this point, I don’t think that just money is an appropriate way to pay back the farmers who were unfairly treated. The creation of a new act that allows for African American farmers to have priority over land as well as loans would even the playing field and make up for the years of discrimination.

 

 

Read the Alchetron Article here.

Read More here.

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Project Coordinator at GreenLight Business Solutions

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