Volume 4, Number 17                                          August 21, 2001

The Farmer

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"Watch your back"  

by Dr. Ridgely A. M. Muhammad and Gary Grant

We of the Black Farmers and Agriculturist Association assert:

1. Since 1910 the U.S. government used tax payers’ money through policies and programs of the USDA to steal Black people’s land and give it to the children of their former slavemasters from whom these Black people had bought the land.

2. Under the Reagan administration in 1983 the U.S. government closed down the Civil Rights Division of the USDA even after having the results of the February 1982 report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights entitled, "The Decline of Black Farming in America", thereby increasing the loss of land from 1983 through 1997.

3. The out of court settlement of the Pigford vs. Glickman class action lawsuit was a conspiracy by the USDA, U.S. Justice Department and Class Counsel to further eliminate the Black farmers, hide the injustice done to these farmers from the public, and then lie about how satisfied these farmers were with the fake settlement.

4. The same lawyers that were used to sell out the Black farmers and deny them true reparations are preparing to pull a similar scam on 40 or more million Black people in America.

5. There is a conspiracy to reduce the black population in America and around the world by limiting access to land and feeding them slow poisons.

The vast majority of black people live on concrete. However, at the turn of the century there were over 9 million black people with almost 1 million of them being Black farmers owning over 13 million acres of farm land. By 1995 we numbered over 40 million and owned less than 2.5 million acres of farmland. We are losing land at a rate of over 1,000 acres per day. In 1910 each black person could be fed off of 1.44 acres of land owned by Black people, while in 1995 each black person would have to live off of .0625 acres of land or about 2700 square feet. A modest home covers 1400 square feet. On the other hand each white person in America has two acres (almost two football fields) of farmland to live off of. Let me put it another way. Each white farmer is responsible for feeding 200 people while each Black farmer would have to feed 2,222 people if 40 million Black people had to depend on Black farmers. On top of the shortage of Black farmers is the fact that their average age is 62.

They gave us food stamps and took our land. The Food Stamp Act of 1964 established the Food Stamp Program to help low-income households buy more and better food than they could normally afford. In that same year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was made law which was to ban discrimination based on color, race, national origin, religion or sex. In 1983 under President Reagan the civil rights division of the U. S. Department of Agriculture was eliminated. The result has been that Blacks lose farmland at 2.5 times the rate of white farmers. In 1964 we owned over 5 million acres but in 1998 we owned less than half that amount and are losing 9,000 acres per week.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture administered both the Food Stamp Program and government loan programs and subsidies to the farmers. There are 1.5 million acres of land in government inventory and 56 percent of that land was once owned by Black people. The USDA caused the loss of this land by Black farmers by giving white farmers easier access to cheap capital and by subsidizing white farmers while denying such subsidies to Black farmers.

The 1982 Civil Rights Commission report, "The Decline of Black Farming in America", stated that "In some cases, FmHA (Farmers Home Administration) may have hindered the efforts of black small farm operators to remain a viable force in Agriculture...There are indications that FmHA may be involved in the very kind of racial discrimination that it should be seeking to correct."

Further, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) of the USDA on December 1, 1994 commissioned a Black consulting firm, D. J. Miller & Associates (DJMA) to do a "Disparity Study". The report was completed on March 4, 1996 but did not see the light of day until March 19, 2001, five years later. The report stated, "This report establishes that, based on direct FSA data sources, minority and female farmers generally face disparities in participation in FSA programs and processes...Black farmers in the FSA Southeast Area states, in particular, are faced with the most striking disparities."

The report was denied by the USDA to exist as the Black farmers in 1998 pursued a lawsuit against the USDA. Without the evidence that this report could have produced the farmers and their lawyers were left with trying to prove discrimination without hard statistical evidence. The lawsuit process led to an out of court settlement signed in April of 1999 which did not include admission by the USDA that it had discriminated against Black farmers. Therefore each member of the "class" had to prove discrimination all over again without the benefits of the D. J. Miller report or the power of discovery which would have allowed them to go into USDA records on "similarly situated white farmers" to show disparity in treatment.

To get a feel for the economic losses faced by Black farmers due to discrimination we can use Georgia as an example. The average Black farmer in Georgia in 1978 owned 150 acres of land. At today's prices ($1,673 per acre) that represents $250,950 in terms of land, buildings and equipment. It was just that, land, buildings and equipment, that was confiscated from them with the help of the USDA. Therefore, $250,000 per farmer could be considered a reasonable settlement. So on a national basis, $7 billion would be closer to what was taken from these 30,000 or more farmers. Actually in 1978 there

were over 30,000 Black farmers in the US who owned land. We don't know how many there are now because the Census of Agriculture conveniently stopped defining farmers according to race in the early '80's.

The Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association (BFAA) asked Sam Taylor, a Black farmer advocate, to develop a lawsuit against the USDA particularly to stop farm foreclosures by the USDA, to eliminate debt which in many cases were not legitimately applied to the farmers’ records and to restore stolen land to these farmers. Since he could not practice law in D.C., he presented a "good" white "jerry-curled" lawyer, Alexander Pires, to the Black farmers to work on their behalf. November 5, 1998 the Black farmers read the consent decree and realized immediately that they had been sold out. A figure of $50,000 was determined to be a just settlement to each farmer who could "prove" discrimination.

Al Pires got Black lawyers to go around the country and pump up this out of court settlement and throw dispersions on the very farmers who started the process. Al Pires even called the president of one of our Historically Black Colleges to have them stop giving the Black farmers a place to meet on campus to organize against the Consent Decree that he wrote. 

The Black farmers filled Federal Court on the March 4, 1999 "Fairness Hearing" of the Pigford v. Glickman Consent Decree to voice their objections to the wording and provisions of the settlement. However, Judge Paul Friedman signed this Consent Decree on April 14,1999 over these objections by the farmers and the lead plaintiff, Tim Pigford, who begged the judge to throw it out. However, Judge Friedman sided with the government and Class Counsel making the Consent Decree a binding agreement.

The result has been that over 40 percent of the class members in the Black farmers’ lawsuit against the USDA have been denied. Only $8 million in debt relief has been forgiven of the over $500 million that was forecasted. Only $500 million of the promised $2.5 billion has been dispensed to the claimants. No stolen land has been returned to the Black farmers. Most of the farmers that went in Track "B" have been offered pennies on the dollars of damages caused by the USDA and Alexander Pires is proclaimed as some type of hero.

Therefore BFAA has proclaimed that "we believe that Pigford v Glickman should be thrown out as it has done nothing more than continued to ruin the lives of Black farmers across the country."

Of the few farmers who receive the $50,000, most still have substantial debt to the USDA and therefore will have to give up any money they receive; their state taxes will increase and put them in a bind; they have someone else who has a judgment against them and they won’t be able to get the money; or they are in bankruptcy and the money goes to the court to pay old debts. While the Pigford v. Glickman Consent Decree was supposed to provide debt relief almost no one is receiving such relief, so the $50,000 is virtually of no help to the farmer.

The Adjudicators are denying people who got into the Class on time on the premises of "you misspelled the name of the 'similarly situated white farmer'"; we find no record of you in the county you named; or your claim sounds too much like the others that have prevailed.

According to BFAA president, Gary Grant, "THE WHOLE THING IS A SHAM!! Most of the people who received the $50,000 fit one profile: those no longer in farming; having no record at USDA; owning no land; and owing no debt to USDA. All others are catching holy hell (pardon my language) in getting through a process that was to be ‘as simple as tying your shoe.’"

"It is terrible." he continues, "..we have cases where those in a family no longer farming got the money and the one still farming was denied."

Now according to a November, 2000 Harper’s magazine article, "Making the case for racial reparations", Al Pires has gotten himself involved with the reparations movement.. Alexander (Al) Pires, Jr. is recognized to have "won a $1 billion settlement for black farmers in their discrimination case against the US Department of Agriculture and is currently working on a multibillion-dollar class-action suit on behalf of Native Americans." (p.38). Watch your back, Native Americans and the Black reparations movement.

We have compiled video footage into a documentary entitled "Snake in the Reparations’ Grass: The Real Story behind the Black Farmers’ Lawsuit" which gives a blow by blow account of the Black farmers’ struggle against both the government and their own lawyers. You may obtain the video by emailing me at drridgely@muhammadfarms.com.

For more information on the Black farmers’ ongoing struggle visit our websites:

Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association: http://www.coax.net/people/lwf/bfaa.htm

and Muhammad Farms:

http://www.muhammadfarms.com

(For archived articles click The Farmer Newsletter)

(For history of the lawsuit click Perfect Crime)

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