By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
America’s “Black Attorney General,” Civil rights attorney Ben Crump on Wednesday, October 12, announced a class action suit against the United States government on behalf of the National Black Farmers Association.
The lawsuit comes amid findings that Black farmers lost about $326 billion of land in America because of discrimination during the 20th century.
During the announcement of the suit on the National Mall in Washington, Crump and the farmers claimed the federal government breached its contract with socially disadvantaged farmers under the American Rescue Plan Act.
Farmers contend that the law included provisions to pay off USDA loans held by 15,000 African Americans, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics and Latinos in the farming industry.
In August, Congress repealed section 1005 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which provided funding and authorization for the federal government to pay up to 120 percent of direct and guaranteed loan outstanding balances as of January 1, 2021, for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
Thus, breaking the government’s promise and leaving farmers in foreclosure.
Black farmers said they relied on the federal government to keep its promise to fund $5 billion to the farmers when it passed the American Rescue Plan Act.
“Black and other farmers of color did exactly what the government asked them to do. They maintained or expanded their operations to strengthen America’s food supply during the COVID-19 crisis,” Crump asserted.
“They believed the U.S. government’s promises. They took Congress and the Administration at their word, expecting that the government would pay off their debt, as the USDA promised in writing.
“Instead, it was 40 acres and a mule all over again, 150 years later – broken promises that doomed generations of Black farmers to become sharecroppers and robbed Black families of billions in intergenerational wealth.”
With Crump at the helm, Black farmers across the country said they’re prepared to fight for the money promised.
“I’m very disappointed in this legislative action,” said John Wesley Boyd, Jr., founder and president of the National Black Farmer’s Association, a nonprofit representing African American farmers and their families.
“I’m prepared to fight for debt relief for Black, Native American, and other farmers of color all the way to the Supreme Court. I’m not going to stop fighting this.”
A 2019 report highlighted how many federal agencies have systemically discriminated against Black farmers, including the USDA.
“Through discriminatory loan denials and deliberate delays in financial aid, the USDA systematically blocked Black farmers from accessing critical federal funds,” the report authors noted.
“If you are Black and you’re born south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and you tried to farm, you’ve been discriminated against,” Lloyd Wright, the director of the USDA Office of Civil Rights under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and a Black Virginia farmer, said in the report.
The report noted that the debts Black farmers “consequently accrued cost them millions of acres, which white buyers then snapped up.”
Ben Crump (second from left) on Wednesday, October 12, announced a class action suit against the United States government on behalf of the National Black Farmers Association. (Courtesy)