Volume 4, Number 4 January 11, 2001
Black farmers lawsuit: A bunch of crap
by Dr. Ridgely A. Muímin Muhammad
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. 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.
In 1978 according to the Census of Agriculture there were 31 Black farms in Terrell County, GA averaging 148 acres each. However of the 10 Black farmers that were still alive in 1998 only six (6) still owned land and none were actively farming. The average size of land holdings was now 13.84, an average loss of 134.16 acres. This represented an average loss of $224,450 in terms of land, buildings and equipment at today's prices ($1,673 per acre). In other words the Black farmers in Terrell county lost about everything from 1978 to 1998. What happened?
We compared these 10 Black farmers who at least got one FmHA loan to 10 white farmers who got loans from FmHA. First of all when I asked Black farmers to identify white farmers that got FmHA loans they were right about one half the time. I had to start out with a list of over 20 white farmers to find 10 that had loans from FmHA. Many times the white farmers would get guaranteed loans or loans from banks, production credit associations and land banks. The Black farmers told me that sometimes when they would go to the FmHA office and there were white farmers in the office before them, they would let the white farmers out the back door making it impossible for the Black farmers to find out what was being offered to white farmers.
In 1998 according to the tax records the 10 Black farmers owned a total of 138.41 acres of land with a tax value (40% of market value) of $349,969, while the 10 white farmers owned 2725.83 acres valued at $2,503,939. The Black farms averaged 13.8 acres, while the white farmers averaged 272 acres. Now if we compare the number of loans received by each farmer according to the UCC-1 records at the courthouse, we see that Black farmers received an average of 4.3 loans from 1978 to 1994, while white farmers received twice that amount, 8.2. But what is more shocking is that none of these Black farmers got any of the 3% loans that were supposedly set aside for them in 1978 and 1979. Instead, 5 white farmers received a total of $943,480 of 3% loans in 1978 and 1979. In fact one white farmer alone received $532,850.
Now Al Pires the lead attorney for the Black farmers lawsuit knows that a national study was done comparing USDA loans and service delivery between white farmers and Black farmers. That report would show on a national level just what I found in Terrell County. The USDA who had the report done is now denying that it exists and has put a gag order on the firm that did the study until after the lawsuit. Al Pires did not force the governmentís hand on this issue which would have "proved" discrimination by the USDA, and thereby each member in the "class" could have gotten paid instead of each member having to prove discrimination all over again every time.
Now according to a November, 2000 Harperís 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.
Here are the facts: as of December 21, 2000 according to the USDA website a total of $491,950,000 has been paid out and $8,304,148 in USDA debts have been canceled. This is half of the $1 billion mentioned in the article and one sixth of the $3 billion touted in the newspapers by the lawyers when the case was "settled" back in 1998.
But here is where the crap hits the fan. According to a USA Today article on January 8, 2001 entitled "Study: Lawsuit awards dropped off in 2000", there were at least 10 individual lawsuits settled in the US last year of over $100 million dollars each. The largest award was $474.7 to an 1993 Playboy Playmate for being cut out of her late husbandís will. The second largest $341.7 million was won by Terry Anderson against Iran for holding him hostage for seven years. Remember now that this is money paid out to individuals whereas, the Black farmers as a class received less than $500 million, total. The white individuals that were awarded millions were just that, individuals, while the Black farmers represent and industry that was taken from a people.
We will never know how the Black farmers may have done if they had the lawyers representing those individuals instead of Al Pires. Because of the weak provisions in the lawsuit 39.6% of the applicants have been denied. Stories of FBI agents harassing those that did get the $50,000 are surfacing. And the USDA is in the process of foreclosing on thousands of Black farmersí land even though there is supposedly a moratorium on such actions.
The Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association (BFAA) wants the Black farmers who have been denied to contact them and give the nature of their denials, so that the national organization can take further steps to bring about a just settlement of their claims. The new administration in Washington must be given the facts and the public needs to know.
To register your complaints go to the BFAA website at:
To get up to date facts and statistics about the lawsuit go to: