Local News

USDA Agrees to Pay Black Farmers For Losses Caused by Discrimination

Posted January 4, 1999

— Black farmers say they have been passed over for government loans for years. In fact, they say discrimination has caused many of them to lose their land. The proof may be in the numbers.

In 1920, black farms accounted for 14 percent of all farms. By 1992, that number fell to one percent.

Now, after years of fighting, theU.S.D.A.has agreed to pay the farmers for their losses.

Using a 75-year-old barn and curing his leaf on a stick, Kenneth Woods does things the old-fashioned way on his tobacco farm.

He hopes that the U.S.D.A. settlement will help end what many say was the old way to deal with black farmers.

"That's a good thing, if it will materialize. I think it is a good thing, because in the past, we have had problems like finances," said Woods.

Woods says he knows many African-American farmers who think they were unfairly passed over for loans from Uncle Sam. He says he has also been frustrated.

"You can inquire. You can ask. And, in a lot of cases, you get the run-around and a brush-off. That's the way I'll put it," said Woods.

Farmers in places like Granville County are eligible for $50,000, if they have an active discrimination case. The nationwide leadership says cash settlements will not settle everything.

"I would just like to make one thing clear, that the amount of money, that's not the issue here. The government could never pay for the pain and suffering that black farmers endured across the country," said John Boyd Jr. of the National Black Farmers Association.

Back on the farm, Woods says he has a lot to endure. But, the government admitting some of its procedures were flawed helps.

A lawsuit by the National Black Farmers Association led to the settlement.

Along with an average $50,000 payment, farmers who qualify will have their debts to the government erased.


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