Volume 5, Number 24 July 7, 2002
A Farmer’s fight is never over
by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Mu’min Muhammad
In agriculture we say that a farmer must do EVERYTHING 100 per cent correct, then he may have a 50 percent chance of making a profit. The farmer has to fight weather conditions, insects, diseases, other animals and sometimes even other people to grow and protect his crop. Then of course their is the "hidden hand" behind price and demand. The farmer must take whatever the market is willing to pay regardless as to whether it covers his cost of production. But Black farmers on top of all of this must fight the government of the United States just for the opportunity to put themselves through all of this hardship just to feed a sometimes ungrateful public.
Just recently three hundred black farmers took over a U.S. Department of Agriculture regional office in Brownsville, Tenn., Monday, July 1st, to protest what organizers called the agency's failure to process loan applications from growers who were counting on the money to plant this year's crops.
After USDA officials in Washington, DC met the final demand of notifying the 5 Brownsville, TN farmers as to whether their applications would be funded or not, BFAA ended its 5 day Prayer Vigil and Sit-In at the USDA Office in Brownsville, TN. The group of 25 remaining BFAA members and supporters departed the building at 10:15pm on July 5, 2002.
"Please believe, this is just a step toward real victory in a very small skirmish with the government," Grant stated. We still have the battle and the war ahead of us as we head North to DC." Secretary Veneman recommended the process, pre-meetings with
substance. Through this process we, the Black Farmers, intend to walk out of her office with a signed, sealed and delivered agreement that will make Black Farmers whole again - that will stop this horrendous conspiracy to kill the Black Farmer by the taking of the land - by discriminating against us in the loaning and servicing of all our tax dollars to
white farmers while using every trick in the book to deny our loans and strangle us into economic disaster and poverty", Grant roared.
These Black farmers had to take over a USDA building just to get a chance to borrow money that they have to pay back with interest at the end of the year. All of this is happening even after the infamous Pigford vs Glickman (now Veneman, the new Sec.of Agriculture) supposedly redressed some of the wrongs done to Black farmers and set forth directives to the USDA to treat them better.
But this Pigford vs. Glickman/Veneman Consent Decree and the lawyers that brought it forth have finally been exposed through the Federal Appeals process. On June 21, 2002 United States Court of Appeals For the District of Columbia Circuit ruled on an appeal brought forward for one of the Black farmers whose case was basically mishandled by class counsel. There were some very damaging statements made by these three judges that are worth repeating for those who feel that the word "snake" may be too strong to describe Attorney Alexander Pires who is now on the "Reparations Dream Team".
And I quote, "Pursuant to the decree, class counsel received an advancepayment of $1 million in fees to cover decree ‘implementation’... One year into the implementation process, the district court ‘took the extraordinary step of awarding a second advance’--this time for $7 million...Several months after class counsel received their second fee advance and just two weeks prior to the deadline for filing petitions for monitor review for the ‘vast majority of claimants [in both tracks],’ class counsel filed an emergency motion seeking an extension of time."
In other words class counsel got paid up front and did not do the work and had the nerve to ask for more time and money. The ruling further went on to say: "A few months later, the district court observed ‘a very disturbing trend’: class counsel had failed to meet their monthly quota ‘even once.’...Worse still, counsel had ‘drastically cut its staff, bring[ing] Class Counsel's ability to represent the [farmers] into serious question.’"
The judges continued: "The court described counsel's performance as ‘dismal’--’border[ing] on legal malpractice’--and ‘wonder[ed]’ whether class counsel would have been in such a predicament had they not filed ‘three new sister class actions’ against the Department."
Class counsel, Alexander Pires, bit and dropped the Black farmers’, moved on to another set of farmers, and now moved on to Black people in general for his new "reparations scam". Beware of this "snake" in the reparations’ grass. The Black farmers have not yet recovered from his venom and now must fight a new Veneman.
Rep. Cynthia McKinney puts it this way: ""The release of the legal ruling by the three judge panel of the U.S. District of Columbia Court of Appeals gives legal credence to our ongoing outrage and disappointment over the racist and wrongful actions of theDepartment of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Justice (DOJ) and the private lawyers who represented Black farmers in the Black Farmer Class Action Lawsuit, Pigford v. Veneman, which was supposed to right the wrongs of years of the USDA’s self-admitted discrimination against Black farmers in the Farm Agency’s farm lending programs," stated McKinney.
The Black farmers' fight continues and this past week's actions show that they will continue to fight.