Archived Story

Black farmers still pushing for lawsuit resolution

Published 3:58pm Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Though a settlement has been reached, Robert Binion doesn’t consider a case involving black farmers completed.

“They have done nothing they agreed to,” Binion said about the United States government. “We’re still in worse shape now than we were in 1999.”

Binion and others are still pushing for claimants to receive relief.

More than 10 sympathizers, including Binion, met with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan about the issue at a farm he owns just outside Indianapolis on June 26.

Local black farmer Robert Binion (kneeling, left) was among those who met with Nation of Islam Louis Farrakhan (fourth from left) to discuss an ongoing lawsuit.
Local black farmer Robert Binion (kneeling, left) was among those who met with Nation of Islam Louis Farrakhan (fourth from left) to discuss an ongoing lawsuit.

“He was receptive to us,” Binion said. “He said he would look into it and see what’s happening with this lawsuit.”

The meeting with Farrakhan, which lasted about seven hours, came on the heels of his visit to the Shelby County Courthouse in Columbiana to voice his support for the Voting Rights Act, parts of which the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled unconstitutional.

Class-action lawsuits were filed by black farmers in 1997 and 1998, asserting the U.S. Department of Agriculture discriminated against them on the basis of their race. A consent decree was entered in 1999 to establish deadlines for filing claims.

While more than 22,000 farmers filed claims by the deadline, more than 50,000 eligible claimants missed the deadline. Many were ultimately able to file their claims, and a settlement was reached.

But Binion said he and other claimants, which have formed an organization called Independent Farmers, still haven’t received payments, which are estimated to arrive sometime this summer.

“It’s been three years,” he said. “Some of the black farmers have said, and I’ve been one of them, they don’t want us to farm anymore. They don’t want us in the programs.”

Binion estimated that more than 400 Chilton County farmers are involved with the lawsuit.

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