Local News

Black Farmers Battle Decades of Discrimination

Posted September 1, 1998

— For years, some black farmers have complained that they've been discriminated against when they ask the federal government for farm loans. A few months ago, we found out that some of those cases are true. Some of those cases are in court right now.

Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman was in the area Wednesday, and that was one of the items he brought up. He says while he is in office, he wants to make sure he can help put and keep all farmers on an even playing field.

Like most of us, Walter Mitchell puts in eight hours or more every day to feed his family.

But Wednesday, politicians and Washington decision makers were standing in line to shake his hand. Like every other grower on this lawmaker tour, Mitchell is worried that his tobacco won't make enough money this year.

"I need some help. The prices are getting terrible," Mitchell said.

One of Glickman's most talked about goals has been to make sure black farmers have the same loan opportunities as everyone else. Complaints about unfair loan practices dating back decades are in court right now. Glickman says he's pushing for policies to prevent future discrimination.

"We need to change some of our credit laws, which both Congressman Etheridge and Congressman Clayton are working on. So, if people have had one problem ten years ago, they're not forever barred from the federal government from getting money again," Glickman explained.

Mitchell says he's never experienced problems with racism on his farm, but he says Glickman's plan for change is good for all small growers.

"Well, most of the little bitty man, it's hard for him to borrow money, because he doesn't really have anything to borrow on, you know. That's one of the main concerns," Mitchell explained.

"Most people who work for theUSDAare good, decent, honest people who want to do the right thing, but we've had some problems in our past and, we're trying to change that," said Glickman.

One of the ways, Glickman is trying to change that is with some open forums he's had around the country. We've had a couple in our area.

He believes getting input from farmers can help him try to knock this problem down and get it gone for good.

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