July 30, 2010
In 1997, 400 African American farmers sued the USDA, alleging discrimination in subsidy policy, and a range of other areas over the preceding 15 years. In the resulting court case, Pigford v. Glickman, the USDA agreed to pay $50,000 to each farmer. By then, the suit had become a class action, and USDA expected to have to pay roughly 2,000 farmers. 22,505 joined the suit.
Two years later, the USDA agreed to pay 16,000 of those farmers the agreed-upon $50,000 in compensation - just over $1 billion in total. But according to the USDA, a full 70,000 additional farmers claimed that they had submitted petitions for damages, but that those petitions were received late due to bureaucratic incompetence or poor legal representation.
The matter remained unresolved until 2008, when Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Barack Obama, D-Ill., teamed up to earmark $1.25 billion in that years farm bill to pay the outstanding claims.
But the 70,000 farmers who say they were wrongly denied damages plus the 16,000 who received $50,000 from the federal government exceeds the total 26,785 African American farmers present in the United States in 1999, and the 39,697 present today.
Then this week, seemingly out of the blue, the administration announced that it does not have the funds to pay out that $1.25 billion. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are outraged, claiming that "if the administration can find $1.5 billion within its administrative funds to pay mostly white farmers in Arkansas and other states, it should be able to pay black farmers who suffered discrimination."
Seriously, folks. Did you really expect Teh Won to give a damn about you once you were elected? If so, then I have a bridge to sell you.
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