Thursday, September 09, 2010

Black farmers still waiting for settlement money after Senate delays

In February we reported the Obama administration had approved additional money for black farmers as part of the settlement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture over decades of discrimination. After five months of stalling in the Senate, the farmers have yet to receive the payments. "John Boyd, founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association, says that bills to fund the settlement have failed seven times in the Senate, and a black-farmer attachment was taken out of the recent farm-aid disaster bill," Frank McCoy of National Public Radio reports. "In August alone, Senate Republicans blocked the settlement twice."

The settlement came from the so-called Pigford II case, which "occurred after the USDA admitted that thousands of other black farmers' claims from the 1990s went uninvestigated," McCoy writes. Senators are believed to be concerned about giving anyone over $1 billion in advance of November elections, even if the money was promised long ago. "Don't these legislators in states suffering economically know the money will boost the income in their state?" Gary R. Grant, president of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, asked McCoy.

Black farmers were further angered by the Obama administration's summer promise to Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln.  Mostly white farmers in her state would receive $1.5 billion for disaster-relief aid. Still, "major newspaper editorials have castigated the deal, saying that the plan will bypass congressional approval and benefit wealthy farmers," McCoy writes. An editorial from The Washington Post declared, "If you think this looks like a back-door plan to almost double almost everyone's subsidy, we agree with you." Lincoln is currently trailing her Republican challenger, Rep. John Boozman, in the polls. (read more)

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