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Black Farmers Fight to Stay on Land

by Meta J. Mereday

Moving Farmer's Rights Forward to be Left Alone on Their Property

 

 

Fighting to stay on their land with the gospel hymn “I Shall not be Moved” to motivate them, Black farmers may finally have a friend in government who understands their decades old struggles.

Recently, the United States government announced a $1.25 billion settlement of an extensive and long standing court case that directly impacted farmers of color. Although it is contingent on Congressional appropriation, we have to believe that this decision will be a step up and not another set back for farmers, who have historically been well under the radar regarding fair play in a country whose rich history was built on its agriculture. 

“The current state of Black farmers is that they are still fighting an up hill battle.  Put seeds in the ground and trusting in nature and the higher power is a bold step,” states Gary R. Grant, President, Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association (BFAA).  “Because of the past and current  discriminatory actions by the USDA, and the ‘redlining’ of banks, most  Black farmers are shut out of the process and many have gone out of business because of the lack of  financing.” 

While the details of the settlement outline sweeping changes in the USDA practices to deter previously discriminatory actions that date back to the agency’s establishment, clearly it will take more time and resources to rebuild the trust and secure the future for these farmers.

The success of the farmers also involves a better relationship with urban Blacks who do not realize the importance in protecting their interests.  With the major problem being financing, the farmers need support not just from the banks to invest in their properties and to help them keep their land, but to re-connect with Black city dwellers that need to understand the historical connection to property ownership and living off the land.

“For Black farmers, a major obstacle is the denial that our Black "city cousins" have in not wanting to be part of the struggle to save farmers and farms that are the basic economic source of our inheritance,” adds Grant.  “Thus the statement, ‘Land rich and cash poor’ continues to be the plight of the Black farmer for the acreage that we still maintain. Many farmers have lost their land because of the lack of financing and there has been no fund, or true Black Land Trust, for us.”

However, with the Pigford Class Action suit still on the table and the recent decision, there is a sense of hope for farmers and organizations such as BFAA to remain on the forefront, but more attention and funding is needed to keep their goals in the spotlight.

“Contributing to organizations that are on the ground working with Black farmers is the best way to help along with seeking out and purchasing from Black farmers, and keeping a look out for any calls to Congress to support efforts to help Black farmers,” comments Grant. “We will continue to work with Black farmers to help them process the paperwork for their claims and to seek other ways to diversify our efforts to achieve success.”  Mr. Grant and all the advocates for farmers “shall not be moved” in their mission and remain planted in their purpose.

Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men's Magazine.

This article was published on Thursday 11 March, 2010.
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