Black Farmers Confront Obama

 

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Of all people, it was Black farmers that dared to make the first Black president accountable for his campaign promise to them. Obama seemed to be reneging on his own legislation and statements favoring billions in payments to Black farmers methodically discriminated against by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Now, his administration wants to cap the payments at $100 million. “Right is right and it doesn’t matter who is in the White House,” said Black farmers leader John Boyd.

 

Black Farmers Confront Obama
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Black farmers have come to believe that now-President Obama is flipping the script on them.”
Some of Barack Obama’s chickens – and other assorted farm animals – are coming home to roost. Six months into his term as a United States Senator, Barack Obama introduced legislation to compensate Black farmers for the cruel and blatant discrimination they had suffered at the hands of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Obama had apparently been moved by the Black farmer’s claims that federal farm officials had methodically denied them federal monies routinely handed out to white farmers. According to the Washington-based Environmental Working Group, Black farmers received only one-third to one-sixth of the federal benefits and subsidies collected by other farmers, over a more than ten year period. Black farmers, as a class, were becoming extinct, partly due to federal government practices.
The Black farmers sued, forcing the federal government to pay out nearly a billion dollars to settle about 16,000 claims. But as many as 65,000 additional farmers had claims, that could amount to as much as $4 billion. That’s when Senator Barack Obama joined legislation to champion their cause. Congress allocated $100 million, with the apparent intention to release more funds, later. But it didn’t turn out that way, and the Black farmers have come to believe that now-President Obama is flipping the script on them.
Last week, the Black farmers and their supporters turned out in force on Capitol Hill, demanding that the Obama administration and the Congress do right by the 94,000 of their fellow tillers-of-the-soil who ultimately filed for claims against the feds. Obama had, indeed, changed his tune upon becoming president. Now, his administration’s position was that the initial $100 million was all the Black farmers were going to get; it wasn’t a down payment, but a cap, a ceiling.
Right is right and it doesn’t matter who is in the White House.”
The Black farmers felt betrayed. John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, said Obama’s formula wouldn’t even “pay the lawyers’ fees.” Many of his members are facing imminent loss of their land. Obama and congressional Democrats urged the Black farmers to have patience. But John Boyd replied, it’s too late for that. “They didn’t tell the banks, the auto companies, and the insurance companies to wait,” said Boyd. He continued: “Right is right and it doesn’t matter who is in the White House.”
That’s when Obama trotted out Black Alabama Congressman Artur Davis, to take the heat from the Black farmers. Congressman Davis, one of the most corporate-friendly members of the Congressional Black Caucus and a protégé of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, claimed the $100 million was just a “placeholder” for monies that would be allocated, in due time – that it was not a cap, despite what administration lawyers said in a legal motion filed in February.
The Black farmers’ patience may be short, but time is in even shorter supply. A little over a century ago, Blacks made up 14 percent of all American farmers. Today, they are less than one and one-half percent. Congressman Davis tried to reassure the farmers. “I know the heart of the president,” he said. But Obama’s heart doesn’t sign any checks. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford.
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