A group of Black farmers supported by clergy came together recently in Memphis to protest aspects of the Pigford II settlement that awarded $1.2 billion to claimants for discrimination by the Department of Agriculture. The group objects to a waiver in the agreement that prohibits pursuit of additional claims.
The farmers, organized in the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, headquartered in Memphis, held a church rally to highlight the issue. Thomas Burrell, president of the organization, took sharp issue with the waiver. ""Why should we have to waive our rights, period?" he asked the rally of 300 held at the Temple Church of God in Christ. Some 10,000 Southern black farmers are represented by the association.
The Tri-State Defender Online writes that Rev. Reginald L. Porter Sr., pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church, said, "This is not a farmer's fight. This is a fight for freedom. If we are going to have freedom, we must take the Promised Land."
The deadline for filing a claim is May 11.
The Obama administration has pushed for settlement of the Pigford II case along with additional suits by Latino, Native American and women farmers.
The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed by North Carolina farmer Timothy Pigford and hundreds of other Black farmers charging that the USDA had discriminated against Black farmers in its loan policies in the 1980s.
The National Black Farmers Association, led by John Boyd, has been leading the fight on the Pigford settlement.
Over 40,000 farmers with claims joined the suit organized by the National Black Farmers Association. According to Boyd "most of the land loss that occurred through the U.S. Department of Agriculture was in the late '50s and early '60s."
Photo: On December 2, 2010, then Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined with Democratic Members of the House and Senate to sign the Claims Resolution Act - legislation to provide funding to settle African American farmers' and Native Americans' lawsuits against the federal government. The cases are known as Pigford and Cobell. CC 2.0.