The statistics on the growing number of foreclosures owned by African-American farmers, discrimination in lending practices and the huge backlog of pending civil rights cases filed by these farmers are alarming. Black farm families -- and the nation -- are losing an important economic, historic and cultural legacy.
African-American farmers are losing land at the rate of 1,000 acres per day. In he last 75 years, the number of black farmers in the United States has declined by 98 percent. For years, black farmers have charged that this dramatic decline has been abetted by discriminatory policies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture which has unfairly discouraged, delayed or rejected their applications for federal loans, or set unrealistic and unnecessary high standards for repayment for those loans that had been approved.
Seeking to redress their grievances, black farmers have filed complaints of discrimination and civil rights violations, but they have seen these claims rejected, inadequately investigated or left unaddressed.
The AFL-CIO supports Congressional action to lift the rigidly enforced two-year statute of limitations enforced by the U.S. Justice Department on these discrimination complaints that has prevented black farmers from suing for damages. We also call on Congress to repeal the 1996 farm bill that prohibits the Agriculture Department from extending further credit to farmers who have experienced past credit problems even when they have been declared credit-worthy under the terms of the Agriculture Credit Act of 1987. Further, we urge Congress to fully fund the technical and resource assistance program available to African-American farmers through the historically black land grant colleges and other community organizations.
We urge the federal government to promptly and fairly settle outstanding claims of these black farmers and to take affirmative steps to ensure that discriminatory practices are addressed and eliminated.