Bachmann and King call Black farmer money "reparations," farmers strike back
STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 7/27/2011, 12:06 p.m.
For some elected Republicans, giving Black folks their proper due seems to just turn their stomachs.
Last week, after touring flooded areas along the Mississippi River, presidential candidate and Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann and Iowa Rep. Peter King told reporters that money dedicated to paying off Black farmers who were discriminated against by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was an example of "wasteful spending" in response to questions about potential cuts to the USDA.
King referred to the $1.2 billion payout as a form of reparations, said many of the payouts were from "fraudulent claims" and took shots at President Barack Obama for his plans for a similar settlement with Hispanic and women farmers who were also discriminated against.
"I'd like to apply that money to the people who are under water right now," said King.
"When money is diverted to inefficient projects like the Pigford project, where there seems to be proof positive of fraud," said Bachmann, "We can't afford $2 billion in potentially fraudulent claims when that money can be used to benefit the people along the Mississippi River and the Missouri River."
National Black Farmers Association founder John W. Boyd Jr. reacted to Bachmann and King's comments in an interview on CNN. "This case is not about fraud, this is about Black farmers who were discriminated against. We've proven our case in federal court," he said.
"This is something that they continue to use to divide and conquer America. If they want to bring America together, the thing they've got to do is accept that Black farmers have had a problem with America. They waited decades to get this money," he continued.
Back in November, Bachmann took to the house floor to criticize the payout before Obama signed off on the bill. "How in the world can you have 94,000 claimants in addition to the previous 14,500 claimants if there were originally only 18,000 Black farmers in the suit?" she asked.
"This case has nothing to do with the census," said Boyd. "Many Black farmers who were not counted buy the census had a problem with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It didn't say you had to be counted by the census." Boyd also mentioned the possibility of family members filing claims on behalf of deceased relatives.
Late last year, the House of Representatives passed the Claims Settlement Act to provide funding for the agreements made in lawsuits brought by Black and Native American farmers against the USDA, accusing them of racial discrimination when providing loans and assistance, fights over the management of Indian trust accounts and resources and battles over water rights with Indian tribes.
"I've been working on this for 26 years," Boyd told the AmNews last December. "This process was a very difficult process. The bill is finally on its way to the president. My hat's off to the other Black farmers who have been waiting and who have been helping with this process. It's been an uphill battle."
Boyd credited representatives like Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee, John Conyers Jr. and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus with assisting him in the victory.
The court-ordered process of notifying Black farmers and their heirs about their share of the settlement began several months ago.
Farmers who qualify for a settlement : farmed between Jan. 1, 1981, and Dec. 31, 1996, and were discriminated against by the USDA by being denied a loan, prevented from applying for one or given a loan with unfair terms.
Visit: www.BlackFarmersCase.com or call 1-877-810-8110 for information, including notices, dates and claim-filing instructions.