Still waiting for justice, black farmers rally in North Carolina

Black farmers gathered in a historic farming community in North Carolina over the weekend to draw attention to the continuing decline of black land ownership due to government policies -- including the ongoing failure by the Senate to fund a more than $1 billion race discrimination agreement.

The "Save the Land" rally was organized by the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association (BFAA). It was held in Halifax County, N.C. at the Tillery Resettlement Farm, which was created by a New Deal program that helped poor families acquire productive farmland during the Great Depression.

The gathering was also a benefit to re-establish a national revolving loan fund for black farmers. The Concerned Citizens of Tillery/BFAA Land Loss Fund will help farmers weather financial stress, avoid tax delinquency and purchase land. It will also work with other groups to advocate for black farmers and educate the public about the significance of black-owned land and agriculture.

Gary Grant of CCT and BFAA told the Roanoke Rapids Daily Herald that he hopes the fund will have $10 million available to black farmers within five years.

The rally comes after a long and still-ongoing struggle by black farmers to get the Senate to fund the $1.15 billion Pigford II settlement for black farmers who suffered discrimination in government loan programs. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the settlement in February, and the House approved the funding in July, but the Senate has repeatedly failed to pass a measure allocating the money.

Earlier this month the USDA agreed to pay out $760 million to thousands of Native American farmers as part of a historic settlement of a separate class-action discrimination lawsuit that claimed they were denied access to low-interest government loans available to white farmers.

But Native American farmers will not have to wait for Congress to allocate the money: It will come from a fund administered by the Department of Justice to pay judgments against the United States.

(For information about contributing to the CCT/BFAA Land Loss Fund, click here and download the contribution form.)