If it’s not one thing, it’s another

Published 11:52pm Tuesday, November 30, 2010

“Hank, the black farmers appropriation passed the U. S. Senate. Isn’t that wonderful? I am celebrating!” Those words burst forth over the phone from Heather Gray of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund. It was indeed a moment worth celebrating. I celebrated as well.

The appropriation had passed the U. S. House of Representatives many months ago. The U. S. Senate had tried to pass it five or six times to no avail. This was the last real opportunity.

Let’s provide a little more background so you can put this celebratory moment in perspective. This particular black farmer litigation started in the 1990s. The United States Department of Agriculture had been discriminating against black farmers for many years, driving most out of business. In 1981, the Reagan Administration even wiped out all procedures by which farmers could complain about discrimination. In 1998, a lawsuit was filed with attorney J. L. Chestnut Jr. helping lead the effort. The applicable statute of limitation was two years so anything that happened before 1996 could not be considered.

We worked to get Congress to pass a law in 1999 extending the statute of limitations back to 1981 when all procedures to complain were extinguished.

Nearly 15,000 black farmers received $50,000 each plus $12,500 for federal taxes. There were other benefits as well. Over a billion dollars was paid. However, many black farmers and/or blacks who had attempted to farm were left out because they failed to file a claim form before the 1999 deadline. Some 22,000 met the deadline but some 70,000 missed it. That brought about a continuing struggle for justice.

In 2008, Congress authorized $100 million to include the left out. Another lawsuit was immediately filed. Over 30 different law firms joined together to fight the battle. We estimated that it would take $2.5 billion to pay the claims. Eventually an appropriation of $1.15 billion, about half of the amount needed with the $100 million already appropriated, was proposed by USDA and sent to Congress. Even that comprised sum had all kinds of trouble.

During all these struggles, we had an election. The U. S. House of Representatives went from a 75 member Democratic majority to a 50 member Republican majority. Since newly elected congresspersons will not take office until January, the current Congress continued meeting after the election to handle unfinished legislation. It’s called ‘a lame duck session.’

Of course, we are still not out of the legislative woods with Senate passage of the appropriation bill. The U. S. House of Representatives must still re-pass the Senate version. We hope that will not be a problem, but you never know. Already some African-American congresspersons are concerned.

If this matter is not successful in this session, the entire appropriation will have to start all over again. Many of us believe that if we have to start over again, both black farmers and native Americans will be left hanging. I tell you, if it’s not one thing, it’s another.

  • aacourtland


  • leo71

    I don’t doubt that black farmers were–and still are– discriminated against,I also don’t doubt there are many fraudulent claims made by some farmers to get a piece of this pie.I hope that Mr.Sanders and those in charge of distributing this money makes sure it goes to the right people.

    • bama

      I certaintly hope Hank Sanders has no hand in handing the money out after his years of funneling millions of education monies through Wallace College Selma to his family’s “non-profits” and pet projects.

  • lolcats

    Just WOW… Mr Sanders how much did you and you’re family make from “representing” these poor farmers? I would be willing to bet it’s more than 20 fold, what the actual victims were paid.

    Currently their are a total of 18,000 black farmers in the United States and the ones who were discriminated against should be compensated for the wrongs done to them by the Government…

    The Lawsuit taxpayers that anyone has ever seen…
    lists over 94,000 black “farmers” wanting to get PAID. This is one of the most outrageously fraudulent claims of scamming the federal taxpayers that anyone has ever seen..

    Mr Sanders, I really hope this bothers you on some level, you should really be ashamed…

    Another interesting note is that the largest settlement from the Pigford v. Glickman case went to a Georgia farm collective of about 12 black farmers, awarding the former land holders $12.8 million. Two of these land holders, Charles and Shirley Sherrod, received, in addition to their share of the above, $150,000 compenasation each for mental aguish…. Yes the same Shirley Sherrod, who use to work for the USDA..


  • Ipso Facto

    Another handout…

    How many of those loans were denied because they were bad risks? Guess that doesn’t matter. When will we see the third Pigford handout for the folks that failed to get in on this givaway? What’s next…reparations?

    When all else fails, use race and the federal government will flood the land with checks…

  • bama

    This is great news considering that state senator Hank Sanders stated he will be forced by Jim Crow to return to the cotton fields. Hank, you are a disgrace to the people of Selma and appeared to be an ignorant fool on CNN when you couldn’t defend your race baiting. Please show some humilty and grace and resign.

  • yellowroseofTexas

    More free money! More waste of money! One would think we have no national debt and no national deficit!
    Plenty of white farmers were mistreated by the USDA; who is looking out for them?!
    If someone misses a deadline, the person should reap the loss! No special accommodations should be made.
    I wonder how much money is going to the lawyers behind this rip off!

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