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Black Farmers Still Face Political Hurdles to Discrimination Settlement

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

Despite a discrimination settlement and congressional and presidential approval for payment to cover past injustice, Black farmers in the United States are still struggling to get money and respect from government officials.

The latest attack is coming from Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and her tea party cohorts who last week blasted the settlement recently saying that it reeks of fraud and that the money should go to flood victims on the Missouri River instead.

“When money is diverted to inefficient projects like the Pigford Project where there’s proof positive of fraud, we can’t afford $2 billion in potentially fraudulent claims when that money can be used to benefit the people along the Mississippi River and the Missouri River,” Bachmann, said July 18 in report by MSNBC.

Iowa Rep. Steve King (R) agreed with Bachmann saying “That’s $2.3 billion; a large percentage of that paid out in fraudulent claims. Now we have them opening up a similar one for women farmers and Hispanic farmers. That’s another $1.3 billion. I’d like to apply that money to people that are under water right now.”

It’s not the first accusation of fraud in this case. At a February forum in Washington, D.C., a blogger criticized National Black Farmers Association President John Boyd for his advocacy.

“Not one damn dime has been paid out,” Boyd told the blogger, as reported by the AFRO. “And all of the sudden you’ve labeled 80 percent of these people fraudulent? Let them go through the process.”

It is the latest slap in the face to the farmers who’ve been struggling to get money owed to them from the original Pigford vs. Glickman case, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture was found to have discriminated against Black farmers from 1983 to 1997.

Many were late in filing applications for funds and that led to more court action resulting in a court mandate stating that claimants who’ve not had their cases heard can seek relief or damages of up to $250,000.

Both chambers of Congress passed legislation to pay the farmers and President Obama signed the order in late 2010.

That final hurdle is a ruling by federal Judge Paul Friedman who signed an order granting preliminary approval of the settlement agreement on May 13. He is set to issue a ruling Sept. 1 on whether the settlement should go forward.

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