by Congressman Dennis Kucinich
Washington, Apr 21, 2010
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) joined southern Black farmers and the Network of Black Farm Groups today to highlight the need for Congressional action to appropriate funds to pay a court settlement for racially discriminatory practices by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
After decades of racially discriminatory practices at the USDA, the government settled with Black farmers in 1999 in a case known as Pigford v. Glickman. President Obama has requested Congress provide $1.15 billion to pay the tens of thousands of claims, yet Congress missed a March 31, 2010 deadline to appropriate the funds.
Kucinich’s statement follows:
I am here today to support the urgent call being made to my fellow members of Congress by the Network of Black Farm Groups and Advocates, to act immediately on Congress’ obligation to remedy a historic injustice against Black farmers.
Congress must finally set aside the funds, as President Obama has requested, to pay the claims of Black farmers in compensation for the racially discriminatory practices of the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”).
As you know, President Abraham Lincoln created the USDA in 1862, and one of the main reasons for its existence is to stabilize and protect American farmers in the form of loans and other support programs. Without that critical support, many American farmers—regardless of their race—would not be able to survive economic downturns which have a magnified effect on farming as an industry. Now, the sad irony of President Lincoln’s act is that the USDA failed to uphold a minimum standard in the treatment of African American farmers who have added to the great bounty of this country. And in fact, many Black American farmers are facing or have faced foreclosure and financial devastation precisely because they were denied consideration for the very support the USDA was supposed to provide them.
Although increasing numbers of Black farmers are operating farms, according to the 2007 Census on Agriculture, Black farmers receive proportionally less in operating loans by the USDA than white farmers do.
African American farmers have experienced terrible discrimination that has sadly continued into the 1990s—nearly a century and a half after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
There is a saying in this country that applies here as it has applied to so many who have been affected before: Justice delayed is justice denied. The Black farmers in the Pigford case have waited more than ten long years—and in reality, far, far longer than that—for justice in the court case to finally be served. That a settlement agreement even exists is a credit to the groups I stand with here today. Congress has made it possible for a settlement in this case to exist—on paper. But our job is not done.
Now we must end the delay; we must appropriate the funds needed to pay the settlement; we must remedy the discrimination of our fellow citizens by an agency of the United States Government.