March 19, 2000 Contact: Jerry Pennick & Heather Gray  (404) 765-0991
Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund 
Demands Just and Equitable Changes in  U.S. Farm Policies 
And Black Farmer Consent Decree Implementation 

New Farm Policies Are Needed Now!!!!

Since 1967 the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund has been assisting Black family farmers across the South with farm management, debt restructuring, alternative crop suggestions, marketing expertise and a whole range of services to ensure family farm survivability. Rural communities and family farmer survival are dependent on fair US farm policies. The time is now to support  family farmers. To strengthen our farmers and rural communities we call for the following to be included in the next Farm Bill:

• Full funding ($10 million) of the Section 2501 Outreach, Education and Technical Assistance Program;
• Implementation of the Minority Farmers Registry (CRAT recommendation No. 28) to establish a base-line of land ownership by people of color in this nation; and a level to build from so we loose not a single additional acre of land;
• Full appropriation and targeting of FSA Farm Ownership and Operating Loans (with emphasis on direct  rather than guaranteed loans) for people of color and limited resource farmers;
• Equity in the selection of members of the FSA farmer controlled County Committees;
• Full implementation of all 92 Civil Rights Action Team (CRAT) recommendations;
• The development of value-added and sustainable uses of forest resources that will not deplete the forest such as mushrooms, herbs, and pine straw production and kenaf.
• Development of incentives for family sized farmers and landowners to take better care of their landholdings by participation in programs such as EQUIP, CRP, and Wetlands programs;
•  Enhanced tax considerations and exemptions for family sized farmers to keep landholdings in agriculture, forestry production and wetlands;
• Support Cooperative Development Programs to assist limited resource farmers and poor rural communities;
• Immediately pass a new farm bill that will: Establish non-recourse loans at near cost of production levels to ensure that farm income comes from the marketplace and not from taxpayers; Enact short-term conservation measures to avoid wasteful over-production; Create a farmer-owned reserve to ensure food security in times of scarcity and price stability in times of plenty; Maintain planting flexibility;
• Establish national dairy policy to ensure a farmer's cost of production plus a return on investment;
• Restore competition to the marketplace through strict enforcement of anti-trust law;
• Protect consumers and the environment;
•Hold referenda on the mandatory pork and beef checkoffs as petitioned by independent producers;
• Negotiate fair trade agreements.

Class Action Suit

Black farmers have settled the class action suit Pigford V Glickman, and the implementation is in process. However, while we support the settlement, we are acutely aware that it has serious problems that plague Black farmer class members. Examples of these problems include:

• A 40% rejection rate of farmer claims that is far too high. 

• Distribution of payments to the farmer claimants is too slow.

• There is ambiguity in the debt relief offered farmers in the Consent Decree. This needs to be addressed. If farmers have USDA debt the question remains which debt if any will be relieved. 
 

Discriminators at the USDA Remain in Place!!!!

We are concerned that while not addressed in the settlement, those in the USDA who have discriminated against Black farmers are still in place in extension offices throughout the country. We believe that USDA must take immediate steps to remedy the situation. USDA should not consider the settlement to be an end of its responsibility to address this on-going problem. 

 

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