Black farmers need a bailout all their own

Published 9:02 pm Thursday, September 25, 2008

Last night, John Zippert spoke to 50 people regarding a long-standing, long-in-coming class-action lawsuit regarding discrimination of black farmers on a national level.

The lawsuit was approved in federal court in 1999, and potential claimants were given until September 2000 to take part in the suit, which awarded farmers who had been discriminated against by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and its agencies.

Some 65,000 farmers filed by the late deadline, but a little more than 2,000 of those were allowed to file.

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Because of that, those farmers were given more time to make a claim, but only those farmers who had filed before September 2000 and had met three criteria (see the article on Page 1).

A lot of misinformation and confusion has caused legal claimants a lot of grief, wasted time and anguish. Scam artists and lawyers seeking money through the tragedy of others has not helped the matter.

U.S. Rep. Artur Davis’ addition to the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 has allowed those farmers two more years — until May 2010 — to make that claim originally filed before September 2000, and set the limit of awards to a total of $100 million.

With most of those claimants taking “Track A,” which awarded those farmers $50,000 tax-free — plus the $12,500 that the government is providing to pay the tax on that — that $100 million would handle only 1,600 claimants, or just over 2 percent of those who had filed claims.

In these times of $700-billion bailouts, it is hard to see where the additional monies would come from to settle those claims. The government and those claimants have two years to see what happens next.

That those farmers who were discriminated against won their class-action lawsuit against the federal government is a wonderful step against injustice supported by the national government.

Whether or not that government can keep its promise is another thing entirely.