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Black farmers try new tactics against weapons of mass foreclosure

Follow Me on Twitter     Message Monica Davis
When it comes to human rights issues, land rights and, of course, the so-called "Black Farmer's Settlement," not all Black Farmers are on the same page, or even in the same book. An outspoken group of independent black farmers is accusing many of the most visible activists in the black farm movement and in Congress, of self-promotion, obstruction and gamesmanship.
They say it's not about the money. It's about millions of acres of black-owned land that have been illegally sold, with another million at risk of being stolen through illegal foreclosure and sold. And, it's about activists and self-proclaimed leaders who promote their own personal agendas at the expense of the people they purport to represent. With that in mind, insiders say a group of black farmers is preparing to take their case before the World Court. They say if the United States can take Zimbabwe to task for its farm and land policies and haul the nation before the Court, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
Farm rights activist Eddie Slaughter believes it is time to take the black farmers' situation to another level. He and others believe that the "leadership" of the black farmers' movement, along with elements in Congress, are not as pro-human rights as they claim to be. When it comes to the black farmer, many outside of the Beltway believe they have been sold out and sold down the river by the very people who claim to have their best interests at heart.
Slaughter and a group of independent land rights activists will reportedly take their case to World Court and plea their case before the world. They say this is not about money: it is about land, land worth billions of dollars, land containing hundreds of billions of dollars of mineral rights--coal, oil, natural gas, timber and other mineral rights.
For more than a decade, black farmers have held out hope that they would receive justice for generations long land theft, domestic terrorism, lynching and dispossession. The 1999 Black Farmer Settlement, a $50,000 per farmer settlement, was supposed to have compensated black farmers for illegal land theft, discriminatory farm loan policies and domestic terrorism. It was supposed to rectify the damage rendered by land theft terrorists, mostly based in the Deep South, who engaged in a multi-generational, century long campaign to drive blacks off their land, and out of business.
Even then, it was too little, too late. Using terrorism, manipulating or destroying land records and loan documents, supremacists and opportunists in and out of the federal farm loan administration agencies have reportedly twisted farm loan policy, manipulated documents and programs for their own gain, and in the process, promoted anti-black and anti-family farm policies nationwide.
Document forgery, even the destruction of loan receipts and deeds have been standard procedure for stealing land for more than a century. In one case, arsonists burned down a county courthouse which housed the black land owners' land records, in order to eliminate those records and dispossess the black farmers from their land. With no "proof" the owned the land, these Mississippi farmers were thrown off the land they had worked for generations.
According to the Associated Press:
On the night of Sept. 10, 1932, for example, 15 whites torched the courthouse in Paulding, Miss., where property records for the eastern half of Jasper County, then predominantly black, were stored. Records for the predominantly white western half of the county were safe in another courthouse miles away. The door to the Paulding courthouse's safe, which protected the records, had been locked the night before, the Jasper County News reported at the time. The next morning, the safe was found open, most of the records reduced to ashes. (AP)
In a century, the number of black farmers has declined by ninety percent. Much of the decline can be directly attributed to racial terrorism, land theft, document deception and forgery at the local level, which was fueled by anti-family farm policies at the federal level. Thousands of cases of terroristic land theft have been reported, with many cases involving coal, oil, natural gas and other mineral rights, not to mention the productive value and revenue of millions of acres of black-owned productive farm land.
The owners and heirs of this stolen property say the government is colluding with the land thieves. After all, when you own land which has proven mineral deposits worth millions of dollars, what good is a $50, 000 "settlement"--which won't even buy a used tractor, let alone compensate for decades of active terrorism and institutional racism? Why throw $50,000 at a black farmer whose land was stolen by the same federal farm loan bureaucracy that is handing out the "settlement" and claim justice has been served? What is $50,000 when the average value of black farms is $500,000?
Many of these farmers have been land rich and cash poor for generations. Unfortunately, when they applied for a farm loan from an openly hostile federal farm loan agency, they initiated a process which usually resulted in the foreclosure and seizure of their land--whether they paid off their loan, or not. And the situation is even more egregious, particularly when we note that farm loan policy has been manipulated in order to dispossess disadvantaged farmers, black and white, since 1972, which we will explain below.
Many farmers ask what good is the 'settlement' when farmers have documented proof that that they paid their loans, and the land was foreclosed and sold anyway? What good is a 'settlement' when the government ignores redemption rights and refuses to let you pay off your loan and reclaim your land--when you have a check in hand?
They ask, what is the real reason farmers are not being allowed to pay off their loans and reclaim their land--a process which is called 'redemption'? In many states land owners have up to a year to redeem their foreclosed property and pay off their debt, a process which is reportedly being ignored. Many farmers say it's not about the loan--it's all about the land. What else could it be if you show up with a check in hand and aren't allowed to pay off your land loan or redeem it after foreclosure? They say it's all about dispossessing small farmers and aggregating farms in to large-scale corporate agri-businesses.
Land thieves have allegedly pocketed billions of dollars worth of stolen revenue from land theft, illegally obtaining mineral rights, essentially taking advantages of the government's desire to make the nation's farming industry "more efficient" by consolidating family farms and moving to a corporate farm model.
The 1972 Young Executives Report under the Nixon Administration outlined a policy to move family farmers out of the industry, resettle them in urban areas, giving them short-term welfare assistance, and moving the nation to a more "efficient," high-intensity corporate agri-business model. Many believe that this policy fueled an aggressive anti-family farm movement inside the United States Department of Agriculture and accelerated an already racist, sexist and biased climate within the USDA. As blacks and other disadvantaged farmers became "unfavored minorities", the climate was set for racist and biased policies to flourish.
Thieves in and out of the farm loan bureaucracy have used the process to dispossess thousands of black farmers in contested fore closures around the nation. USDA, also described as "the Last Plantation", was already hostile to minority farmers. It illegally fought back against the Black Farmer Settlement with a vengeance, where agency executives told civil servants to lobby their congressmen against the settlement--something which was and is highly illegal.
The e-mail in question, apparently written by a Farm Service Agency employee, quoted the deputy farm loans administrator for the agency, Carolyn Cooksie, as saying legislative language dealing with the Pigford settlement in the House farm bill was "awful." It also said Cooksie was lobbying senators to oppose it. (Nebraska Democratic Party, click here)
The Black Farmer's Class Action lawsuit is more than a decade old. During that time promises have been made and broken. The USDA has reportedly fought the settlement every step of the way. And the very process of becoming part of the lawsuit has been fraught with corruption, callousness and malfeasance, as many farmers were never notified of the suit, and thousands didn't have access to information concerning the details of the court case.
The second Black Farmer's Settlement was supposed to rectify the omissions of the 1999 settlement, but many farmers remain angry. Many feel they have been sold out: by Congress and by so-called black farmer leaders. In a press release, a black farmer and long time activist, Eddie Slaughter, says "the real players are the actual farmers and not the self proclaimed leaders of the black farmers." Slaughter says a few highly visible black farm settlement promoters are promoting their own agenda, at the expense of thousands of black farmers across the nation.
Thus, the promise of the settlement has turned to dust. Critics say the cumulative effects of corruption, ignorance and land terrorism within government agencies and local land offices kept blacks out of the first settlement, so-called budget issues may reportedly drive the second settlement down to $20,000. It all depends on the number of black farmers who become claimants in the second settlement, and, all the while, the purported headline grabbers and self-proclaimed spokespersons manipulate issue for their own agendas.
Slaughter and other critics say, "What is a possible fifty thousand dollars that will diminish to a possible twenty thousand depending on the number of applicants, when the USDA is set to swipe another million acres of land from black farmers?"
Farm rights activist say, "It's not about the money to the USDA, it's all about acquiring the land. Look at the Pigford Settlement, the USDA came back in the cover of darkness and placed liens back on property that was promised debt forgiveness. With this being just one of the things that continues to happen in a long list of dirty laundry we have questions that need to be answered."
However, the rules of the game have changed. The new generation of black farmers is looking beyond long-time organizations such as the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Association of Black Farmers. After being told that Congressional leaders would not hold hearings on the issue until after the November elections, a group of black farmers says they have taken the gloves off and will now play hardball on the world stage.
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Monica Davis is an Indiana-based marketing specialist, author, radio personality, columnist and public speaker. She specializes in economic, history and public policy issues and has written articles on land loss, bank failure, institutional (more...)
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