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Remember Shirley Sherrod, former Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture? Back in July 2010 Sherrod was wrongfully fired by the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack for remarks to the Albany, Georgia chapter of the NAACP regarding black farmers. Well, it looks like those farmers might finally get their payday.
It was proven in court that the USDA discriminated against black farmers on the basis of race and failed to investigate or properly respond to complaints from 1983 to 1997 (Pigford v. Glickman). With farming being a way of life for millions of Americans during the Great Depression, food, loan, healthcare, and educational assistance from the USDA was vital. The lack thereof intensified cyclical poverty, thus widening wealth and power gaps.
Recently, U.S. District judge Paul Friedman ruled in favor of the black farmers, thus approving a 1.25 billion dollar settlement. However, I suggest we wait and see what actually happens before throwing our “V” signs in the air. 1.25 billion dollars is a lot of money (just to put things in context, the USDA typically has between 86 and 145 billion dollars at its disposal for loans and grants). And, as I’m sure you know, every dime of it will need to be paid back. Well, the only revenue that the government has is its tax base—the IRS…
Let’s just say that I have a strange feeling that the Supreme Court will get involved, and that Congress will get the last word. Stay tuned…
To read more about the black farmers and judge Friedman’s latest decision, visit CNN.