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Dear Senators and Representatives:
I am contacting you via phone and mail since you represent citizens of the State of _____and some of its most vulnerable citizens are under attack in Washington, DC by the USDA.
My understanding is that Texas has the most African American farmers of any state. As Black farmers, their cases of malfeasance by employees of the USDA/FSA go back well into the 1960s, and that is just for those farmers who are still alive. Many have died in these battles for justice. That said, the latest Ag Census data indicate that there are 48,697 Black producers in the US and that there are 35,470 Black-operated farms. This document lists the number of Black producers by state: Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Virginia, Arkansas, and Tennessee. There has been a significant decline from 1920 where there were upwards of 950,000 Black farmer operators and from 1910 when Black farmers farmed 19 million acres. The losses have been horrendous and much of it is due to the malfeasance of the USDA. These losses from the land and productivity of the land are estimated at $326 billion.
Our specific aim has been to find debt relief and compensatory damages for what is known as the “Pigford Legacy Farmers,” or those who did not find debt relief under Pigford v. Glickman. To this end, a large group of us met in front of the White House on March 1, demonstrating near the anniversary of the Fairness Hearing for the Pigford v. Glickman case before Judge Friedman, March 2, 1999. We believe now, as we believed then, that Pigford was a debacle and that Black farmers were worse off before than after. Pigford promised either a $50K sum plus debt relief under track A, or a sum not determined plus debt relief under Track B. Over 22,000 applied for inclusion in the class, over 15,000 prevailed for inclusion, and only 371 received debt relief. In the face of decades of verifiable discrimination, debt relief is precisely what they wanted and precisely what they did not receive.
One sign from the Demonstration that resonated deeply with me was this one: “We gave you the White House. You gave us Tom Vilsack.”
As we all know, Congress had appropriated 120% of the indebtedness of socially disadvantaged farmer and ranchers within the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. These funds were for debt relief and taxes for those farmers who had suffered discrimination in the farm/services division. However, Secretary Vilsack, in our opinion “slow-walked” the process and allowed 12 white farmer class action law suits to be filed and for two courts to issue restraining orders against the USDA that disallowed them to pay Black farmers and other SDFR.
In fact, many of us protested against Vilsack’s appointment long before he was appointed, but President Biden ignored us. In fact, we participated with the Biden/Harris transition team and were told at one point in the process that what we wanted, “race-based remediation to a historical anti-black process” was “unconstitutional.” We told President Biden and Secretary Vilsack about this.
Then, in 2022, Congress signed the Inflation Reduction Act which made allocations available to “distressed” farmers and ranchers, a race neutral language that circumvented frivolous law suits. In that bill, $3.1 billion was allocated for “distressed” farmers to bring them into compliance with their debts with USDA/FSA for those with guaranteed loans. It also allocated $2.2 billion for farmers who can show that they were discriminated against. The Ag Secretary is slow-walking these processes as well.
At this point, Secretary Vilsack has released $800 million to approximately 11,000 “distressed” farmers and ranchers, and our group, The Justice for Black Farmers Group, can only identify nine Black farmers who have received partial or full relief from their debts. We also are aware that they are receiving 1099s from the IRS. This is reprehensible. Their debts are paid off and now they are under the economic boot of the IRS. We know that there are approximately 3,000 Black farmers whose indebtedness is under $210 million. We think he is “cherry-picking” farmers and that this will enhance his credibility. We are not buying it.
There is much more history to Secretary Vilsack’s acts of malfeasance than we can discuss in one letter. However, my blog outlines a number of matters related to him. We believe that he is owned by Big Ag. In fact, a simple google of funds released to various agencies within Big Ag will validate this point.
There are numerous investigative reports about the failures of USDA to honor its contractual obligations to Black producers, and the consistent theme is that Secretary Vilsack has failed us.
We, therefore, would like for you to stand with us, join in concert with our voices to President Biden, to accept the resignation of Secretary Tom Vilsack, and put in that position someone who can settle these matters once and for all. Black America is watching.
Waymon R. Hinson, Ph.D.
Representative, Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association
Representative, Justice for Black Farmers Group
Representative, USDA Coalition of Minority Employees