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John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association is trying hard to meet with President Obama to bring settlement to the Pigford v. Glickman class action lawsuit, and get compensation for black farmers.
When they reached a $1.25 billion settlement with the USDA last February, members of the Pigford v. Glickman class action reasonably assumed they’d soon receive promised recompense. Now, claimants are still waiting.
Congress, having missed several deadlines, has yet to fund the settlement despite farm-state legislators’ backing.
John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, spearheaded the settlement effort and has been pushing Congress and the White House to finalize the deal. Boyd spoke with Southeast Farm Pressin mid-August. Among his comments:
On where funding for the settlement stands…
“I was disappointed the (Obama) administration made a deal with Sen. (Blanche) Lincoln for $1.5 billion primarily in disaster payments or subsidy payments to large-scale corporate farmers. … I can promise you there won’t be many black farmers taking part in that relief effort.
“I’ve been after President Obama and the administration to offer the black farmers an administrative remedy to help get us out of this political gridlock. The same kind of offer should’ve been made to black farmers like it was to Sen. Lincoln when she took her measure out of the small business (bill). We were taken out of the small business (bill) too. But there wasn’t any type of deal offered to us. That’s pretty much a double standard and I’m hopeful the president will meet with me in the coming weeks so we can discuss where we are in the process.
“You asked where we are? We’re stuck in the Senate! We’re stuck in political, gridlock politics. It’s mid-term election politics.”
That was my next question: if this wasn’t an election year do you think this would’ve already gone through?
“I think so. I do think we need the involvement of President Obama to reach out to leadership — Republican and Democrat — to see what can be done to move the bill.”
Do you think politicians are looking at the coming (class-action) cases (against the USDA) and the potential for having to fund them … and are frightened of what their constituents are going to say?
“I don’t know. I can tell you I haven’t spoken to a senator that doesn’t support (funding the settlement). That’s the bad part.
“I have knocked on every senator’s door — Republican and Democrat. And I haven’t spoken to a single (politician) or staff member who hasn’t … supported (the settlement).
“That’s a difficult pill to swallow when you’ve tried to get something done for 26 years and finally have people saying they want to help. Now, we’re caught up in some bigger political fight. Every bill is being filibustered.
“I’ve met Sen. (Harry) Reid, (Senate majority leader) twice. I’ve had several buttonhole meetings with (Kentucky) Sen. Mitch McConnell (Senate minority leader) in the hallways. They both said they support (the settlement)…
“We’re always tied up in some other, bigger fight.
“We need leadership to take a look at what’s going on with black farmers and how long we’ve been fighting this fight. We’ve got a judgment (in our favor) in federal court. We have a bill that’s law saying ‘black farmers should be able to have their cases heard based on merit.’ That’s the law and it was supposed to be enacted within two years. None of those things have been done.
“We’re still out here pushing and everyone has to be held accountable for not getting this done in time. Deadlines have been missed in the settlement agreement — three, so far. Where is the accountability?
“We have President Obama who says he’s supportive, Secretary of Agriculture (Vilsack), leaders in the Senate and, bottom line, we still don’t have our money. That’s bad politics and bad for the American people to see how this is playing out in the media.