Black Farmers cry out for help against the US Government
By Dr. Ridgely Abdul Mu’min Muhammad July 16, 2013
Watch press conference and read article below. (Read the press release)
Ironically on the same day, July 13, 2013, that the not guilty verdict was announced for George Zimmerman who killed Trayvon Martin, the Independent Black Farmers held a Press Conference in Town Creek, AL. at the farm of Mr. Michael Stovall, a Black farmer who has been fighting the USDA for 20 years. A young Black man is gunned down in the city while walking home from the store just because he represented the profile of a “menace to society” and his killer is set free and considered a hero in the eyes of a segment of America. On the other hand a group of Black men, who are not dope pushers, nor pimps, nor absentee fathers, are treated like dirt by the government of America just because they want to farm. When young Black teenagers come to Muhammad Farms to get a little farming experience, we put them out in the field to pick produce or pull weeds for an hour or two, I ask them if they would like to do this every day. Invariably they would say, “No”. Then I leave them with this question: “Why would the U. S. Government not want a group of people who want to do this every day for the rest of their lives not to farm, since we all need good food to eat?” Black people are dying in the cities from heart disease and diabetes due to a lack of nutritious food, while the US government persecutes Black farmers. Can you spell “Genocide”?
Robert R. Binion a Black farmer from Clanton, Al., spoke at the press conference and he said that he prevailed in the Pigford lawsuit and was told if you were paid $50,000, you would receive “injunctive relief”. However, according to Mr. Binion he does not know of one farmer who prevailed that was given “injunctive relief.” He said, “We were talking about $200,000 cash money for each farmer but we accepted this low ball figure of $50,000 in this consent decree only because we expected to get ‘injunctive relief’ — proper servicing on USDA programs and loans after the lawsuit. I applied three times for loans since 1999. I was refused three times. I do not know of one farmer who has received injunctive relief.”
After applying three times since 1999 for an operating loan, the local USDA office asked Mr. Binion to come back and apply again. He told them that “If my Daddy gets up out of his grave and tells me to go, then I will come back.” He went ahead and set out 1500 peach trees, but he could not get money from anywhere to keep them going. Then the USDA Civil Rights division plays this game with the two year statute of limitations (SOL), which is the time limit on filing a discrimination complaint against the USDA. Mr. Binion said, “They held my paper work up on my last complaint filed in 2008 all the way to one day before the SOL ran out on my complaint. I asked Mr. Vilsack (Sec. of Agriculture) do you think that this is right? He said ‘No it’s not’, but what is anybody going do about it? I took 20 farmers to a meeting that was supposed to show us how to access USDA money and all they did was give us a sandwich and a drink. I found out later that that same College where we had this meeting wound up getting the money that we were trying to apply for.”
Mr. Stovall’s chicken houses have been sitting empty for 12 and one half years. Mr. Stovall has been in and out of court suing the USDA for 20 years in which there has been numerous findings of discrimination and breaches of contracts but nothing has been done. The Justice Department seems to be working for the USDA, not for the farmers. Mr. Stovall said, “The Justice Committee must investigate the USDA and the Department of Justice. I have been denied loans to purchase farms. I have had a contract to purchase a cattle farm, but the seller reneged after I had bought the cows. When I had no place to put my cows, then they came at me claiming that I maltreated the cows. They shot my cows then blamed me for my cows dying. I got part of a loan from the USDA to set up two chicken houses. Once I got the frame for the houses built, then they did not give me the other part of the loan that would have allowed me to finish both houses and get the chickens to get started. I got up enough money to put in the feeders and fans that I needed, but a week before I was to purchase chickens, someone stole my feeder motors and cooling fans. The buildings have never been used now for 12 years.” He said that someone inside the USDA told him that they had no intentions of helping him get those chicken houses up and running.
Mr. Stovall continued, “Now here comes this Pickford consent decree. How you gonna give $50,000 to farmers who have lost 400 acre, 200 acres or even 40 acres?”
Mr. Ferrell Oden has been fighting the USDA for 6 years. He applied for a loan to set up a fish farm. He was denied and the farm was sold to another white farmer. Mr. Oden said, “I filed a complaint of discrimination at USDA headquarters in DC. Then in 2009 the national USDA office told the local USDA office in Alabama that I had complained. The next day a vehicle with federal license plates tried to run me off of the road. I reported the attempted murder to office of civil rights investigator who then brought in a DOJ investigator who told me that ‘I am sure that they were not trying to kill you, but were just getting your attention and I will call the Monroeville, Al office and tell them to cut It out. However, you’ll have to deal with your credit and audits from IRS yourself.’”
Mr. Oden goes on to say, “I filed another suit against the USDA in 2010 because I was discriminated against. Asst. Sec. Joe Leonard, of the Office of Civil Rights of the USDA, signed a finding of discrimination. However, in that same year the Alabama department of Human resources filed a set of false charges against my family business that specialized in care for the disabled. The charges were investigated in 2011 and found to be false, however this caused me to lose my 10 year old family business. They destroyed a $2 million business just to insure that I would not be able to continue fighting the USDA. I had a hearing in 2012 and the USDA awarded me damages of $73,500 when my damages, from the loss of the farm and the income that it would have generated, were estimated to be in access of $20 million. This damage estimate was done by a reputable agricultural economist that used to work for the USDA. This does not include the loss of my family owned corporation of $2 million.”
The Independent Black Farmers want the people to petition Pres. Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to look at the injustice being perpetrated against the Black farmers. They demand a hearing in front of the Judiciary Committee headed by Congressman John Conyers to expose the ongoing conspiracy of the USDA and the Department of Justice against the Black farmers. They have tried to get help to fight this battle from all of the Black organizations and only Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam has met with them and committed to help get the word out on the plight of these and other Black farmers.
If these farmers do get justice in the courts and are awarded the proper damages, what will they do going forward? Will they have to go back to the USDA for loans and services? Will they have to sell their products to large white corporations who control the markets? Will they have to pay exorbitant prices for equipment and other farm inputs? A new John Deere tractor costs over $130,000, the smallest John Deere grain combine costs $290,000. The way to end these types of blatant offenses is for Black people to get behind Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Economic Blueprint of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad. We can then buy farmland, equipment, and even set up processing plants and distribution systems that can hire the Trayvon Martins of our communities, before they are shot down by white killers, in or out of uniform, masquerading as humans.
(Ridgely A. Mu’min Muhammad, Ph.D in Agricultural Economics, and Student Minister of Agriculture for Nation of Islam. Find out more at http://www.noimoa.com)