Volume 5, Number 11                                               February 4, 2002

The Farmer

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"Americaís Best Kept Secret"

by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Muímin Muhammad

 

On September 9, 2001 the Detroit News posted an editorial on its web site Detnews.com stating "Washington Should Turn Down Wasteful Farm Subsidies Deal". It states that "If there was any doubt that farmers are Washingtonís sacred cow, it was put to rest by the DC-based Environmental Working Group two months ago. The research group found that almost no excuse is too flimsy for Congress to hand gobs of money to farmers."

First of all, as a farmer, I do not begrudge other farmers for getting farm subsidies, because any sane government will insure the security of its food and fiber system. A country that can not feed its citizens will find itself no country at all in just a few days. However, the article goes on to state, "The study found that 60 percent of Congressí largess goes to the richest 10 percent of the nationís farmers. This is bad enough. Whatís even worse is that this aid does not even go to farmers: Chicago Bulls player Scottie Pippen received $131,575 over the last five years simply because he owns some farm land in Arkansas. Similarly, the Nation of Islam received $83,000 over the same period."

These two are the only specific cases highlighted, even though according to the same data that this article references, $5,634,456,694 in subsidies were distributed between 168,640 individuals and corporations in the state of Illinois for this same five year period. Why did they pick out the Nation of Islam which is 19,432 on this list? (Well not really, the "Nation of Islam" is not listed, more on that later.)

Why did they say nothing of the 24 individuals or corporations who received over $1,000,000 in subsidies over this same time period? Why did they overlook another 255 that received between $500,000 and $1 million in subsidies? Why did they skip the next 10,985 on the list to get to Scottie Pippen and then the next 8,192 to get down to the Nation of Islam?

Why did they not mention something called "Walker Place" which received $5,682,950 or the University of Illinois which received $1,685,238 or Illinois Wesleyan University which received $527,232 or Millikin University ($323,932) or John Hancock Mutual Insurance, Inc. ($211,367) or the Womenís Div. of Methodist Church ($165,087)? But instead it jumped to number 11,240 (Scottie Pippen) on the list and number 19,432 (Nation of Islam) to make some kind of point.

What is the similarity between the Nation of Islam and Scottie Pippen? Hint: Race. Why didnít the writers even bother to check that Scottie Pippen has not played for the Chicago Bulls since 1998? And whatís wrong with Scottie owning a farm in the state (Arkansas) in which he was born and played college basketball? Could it be that he bought a farm for his parents from some of his basketball earnings? And whatís wrong with that? Hint: 1. Nothing is wrong unless Black folks benefit. 2. There is no wrong unless Black folks do it, 3. No benefits of tax dollars collected from Black folk should ever go back to Black folk, 4. Give away programs are for whites only, whether they be American or foreign.

Oh, now you say that these statements are too "broad brushed". Okay, letís go back to the data base which the Detroit News used for their editorial, http://ewg.org. While tracking down the list of recipients trying to get down to the $83,226 received by the Nation of Islam, I ran across some anomalies that would have bitten the nose of any respectable journalist.

In the list of recipients who received between $200,000 and $299,999 there were 22 sets of recipients with the same last name, in the same town, with the same zip code and receiving exactly the same amount of subsidy over this period. For instance, Donald Book received $291,908 and Ruth Book received $291,908. They both had the same zip codes. However, according to government regulations one household should not receive over $50,000 per year from subsidies. In this case each received an average of $58,381 per year.

Remember now, that this happened at least 22 times in the $200,000 to $299,000 range. It also happened 5 times in the $300,000 to $399,000 range. Interestingly, this same "Book" family pops up in this range with another set of doubles, Karla Book and James Book who received $399,278 each and lived at the same zip code as the other Bookís. Now, if the Detroit News was really doing investigative reporting for irregularities, then how did they miss these little details (smile)?

Now here is the "rest of the story". When the Nation of Islam acquired the 1556 acre farm in Bronwood, Ga in December of 1994, the previous owner was receiving $39,000 per year from the government to keep 821 acres out of production. When we acquired the land we immediately took this land out of this "set aside program" for it was our intent to farm the land and not the government. If we had kept the land in the government program for the five year period between 1996 and 2000, we would have received at least $156,000 in government subsidies instead of the $83,000 which we received as an entitlement under the new 1996 Freedom to Farm Bill.

If you go to the http://www.ewg.org data base and use the search string "Nation Of Islam" you will not even find it listed. This is because the farm is not incorporated under the "Nation Of Islam". Therefore the Detroit News went to the trouble of finding the specific name under which the 1556 acre farm in Georgia was listed in the state of Illinois data file. In other words the Detroit News was tracking down some Black folk that got some government money to use to make some kind of "point". And if you think that we are not farming then go to the pictures at: http://www.muhammadfarms.com/Pictures%20Muhammad%20Farms.htm

Furthermore, from 1998 through 2000, Southwest Georgia was under an extreme drought. Farms around us got hundreds of thousands of dollars in disaster relief funds while we were denied because the farm was owned by the Nation of Islam. Yet even though we were denied money that we should have received, this "news" agency saw fit to editorialize us on receiving a lesser amount. I think the proper phrase to summarize our and other Black farmersí situation is "dammed if you do, and damned if you donít". Their intent is clear; cut off any funds from the government while at the same time muddy the waters of our peopleís heart so that they will stop supporting us.

And this type of duplicity in government subsidies, handouts and the reporting of such has been going on for over a century. Mr. David J. Miller, whose firm did an analysis of discrimination in the allocation of government subsidies, spoke at our recent Georgia BFAA "Awards Banquet" held at Fort Valley State University on January 26, 2002. In his five minutes he told us about the millions of acres given to white immigrants from 1862 to 1900 under the 1862 Homestead Act. White immigrants were given 160 acres each as long as they would stay on the land for at least 5 years. All one has to do is consult the World Book Encyclopedia under the "Homestead Act" to verify his statements. In this same time period Blacks born in America were never given the "Forty Acres and a Mule" that they were promised "after" slavery.

However, as Tom Burrell, President of Southern Growers, Inc., stated at the banquet, "Black people, who could hardly read nor write, were able to purchase 16 million acres of land on their own with no help from the government." However, through various give away, subsidy and loan programs this government gave white farmers the money to buy out or sometimes just run off Black families who were denied these same benefits from USDA programs over the last 70 years.

Georgia BFAA President, Eddie Slaughter, recently appeared on the Patricia Crayton Show promoting the "4th National Black Land Loss Summit" to be held in Atlanta, Ga, February 8-10, 2002. In his conversation, he pointed out to the viewing audience that "Black people continue to put that racist, Tommy Irvin who was appointed by Governor Maddox in 1969, back in office, year after year as the Commissioner of Agriculture just because he is a Democrat. At the same time this racist denies Black farmers their fair share of any government programs that comes through". Mr. Slaughter used the recent Tobacco Settlement as an example, where Black farmers lost their tobacco allotment and were not compensated for that loss, while the white farmers received all of the settlement awards.

In previous articles archived in the "The Farmer Newsletter" we have shown how this recent trick, the Pigford v Glickman class action lawsuit out of court settlement, has gone further to deprive Black farmersí justice and their land. Maybe during the panel discussion, "The Media and the Black farmersí struggle" at the Land Loss Summit, we can get the mediaís perspective on how America has kept her "best kept secret" away from Americaís press and t.v. media. And that "secret" is "America is for whites, only", period.