Bill could clear way for black farmers

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

Black farmers could get a second chance at financial relief following the passage of the farm bill in the House of Representatives last month.

U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, was in Selma Monday afternoon to announce the

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passage of the bill, which comes after three years of work seeking resources for black farmers whose claims were never heard in the Pigford case against the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The bill still must pass the U.S. Senate. If passed by the Senate, it will re-open claims for 70,000 black farmers nationwide, he said.

The bill has the support of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., whose office &8220;plans to take this up in the Senate,&8221; Davis said.

Davis encouraged concerned citizens to contact Alabama’s senators, Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions and ask them to support the bill.

He also told those gathered at the federal courthouse in Selma that this is no guarantee justice will be served.

If the legislation is passed, those who were Pigford claimants and were denied because they filed late will have the opportunity to have their cases heard.

In addition, Pigford claimants who were subject to foreclosures may be able to have those foreclosures stayed.

Al Hooks, a third generation farmer from Morgan County, said he was denied his claim for various reasons.

Dr. Walter Hill, dean of agricultural sciences at Tuskegee University, also addressed those gathered.

But, he added that the opportunity alone will not make farmers successful.

Davis said the farm bill reauthorization does more than just open the door for black farmers seeking justice.

He said the farm bill also:

& Provides more money for nutrition programs.

& Provides more money for specialty farmers.

& Provides more support for farmers of all colors.