Thursday, August 5, 2010

Urgent Action Alert: Support Black Farmers and Native Americans

The United States Senate is expected to take up legislation to provide settlement dollars to Black Farmers and Native Americans, because of decades of discrimination and mismanagement in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Please call both of your Senators today and tell them to support funding for the Pigford and Cobell settlement.  We aren't sure exactly when this will go to the Senate floor, so it is critical you make your calls to your Senators as soon as possible.

Call the Senate switchboard and ask for the Senators from your state:
(202) 224-3121

The Issue:

The Pigford II settlement, which was announced by the US Department of Agriculture and the USDepartment of Justice in February of this year, would provide as many as 70,000 African American farmers, many of whom suffered blatant discrimination at the hands of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for decades, with cash damage awards and debt relief. These claims cannot even begin to be investigated, let alone settled, until after Congress has appropriated the funding. Funding for the Pigford settlement had been approved by the US House on July 1, 2010, but the money was stripped by the U.S. Senate on June 22, 2010.

The legislation to be considered also contains $1.41 billion to provide for the Cobell settlement, which involves lost royalty funds flowing from the mismanagement of natural resources on Indian land by the U.S. Department of the Interior for more than a century.  In the Cobell case, the federal government mismanaged billions of dollars in oil, gas, grazing, timber and other royalties overseen by the Department of Interior for Indian trustees since 1887.

The Urgency:

Essentially, Black Farmers and Native Americans won their lawsuits, but Congress has to appropriate the funds for the settlements to actually be paid.  There is incredible urgency to pass this appropriation to settle the class action lawsuits of African American farmers and Native Americans. Many of the farmers who would qualify for monies under the settlement have waited as long as 10 years to be compensated; some have already died or lost their farms. After years of discriminatory treatment by USDA credit and program agencies, these farm families have already waited almost a decade for compensation for these well-established claims. It is time to allow these farmers to focus on the future, and move forward unencumbered by the racial discrimination of the past.  The longer the Senate delays, the more difficult it will be for this funding to be appropriated.

This bill has the support of President Obama, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Senators and House members of both parties and the Congressional Black Caucus. Your Senators need to hear from you.  Call your Senators today!

For Future Generations...

Rev Yearwood

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