College Of Agriculture Hosts Congressman Davis' Briefing On Black Farmers Lawsuit

11/11/2010

TUSKEGEE, Ala. − (Nov. 11, 2010) - Some were promised a settlement, which to this day they still have not received, others were told they were too late in submitting their claims. No matter what their plight, they showed up – standing room only – at the University’s Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center for a Jan 26th briefing on the black farmers lawsuit presented by U.S. Rep. Artur Davis,D-Birmingham, Ala.

“I cannot conceive of any other place to hold this (briefing),” Davis said referring to the University’s long agricultural legacy.

In 1999 a group of African-American farmers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture reached a settlement in a discrimination case. To date, 13,000 applicants of the more than 96,000 eligible African-American farmers have received a portion of the $2.3 billion settlement.
 
Davis ’ visit, presented by the College of Agricultural , Environmental and Natural Sciences, served as means to update the community on issues surrounding the farmers’ lawsuit and USDA settlement. But he also took the opportunity to gain support from and inform the audience of farmers, agriculture officials and academics about the African-American Farmers Benefits Act of 2005, which he introduced as legislation in November.

Under the new legislation, farmers improperly notified of the deadlines for claims would be able to file. It would also ensure more effective notice of information regarding the lawsuit and secure an unbiased third party to oversee the process.

“Obviously the lawsuit brings a monetary benefit for black farmers. But the money also means they can move to the next level, buy some land, buy necessary equipment and pay off some debts,” said Dr. Robert Zabawa, research professor in the College of Agricultural, Environmental and Natural Sciences.

Many of the more than 300 in attendance were there for the update. Yet many farmers thanked the congressman for the opportunity to voice the challenges of getting money they were promised through the settlement. For some, the new legislation could mean a new beginning.

“If farmers lost their businesses, the settlement helps a little to restore their dignity. It also means they are being recognized for the discrimination and racism they have had to endure in the profession,” Dr. Zabawa said.

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