Binion says lawsuit not over

Published 11:01 pm Friday, January 7, 2011

In the latest major development of a lawsuit alleging discrimination against minorities by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. House on Nov. 30 approved a multibillion-dollar settlement and will pay thousands of black farmers and American Indians.

The class-action lawsuit had been in motion for 15 years, and more than 30,000 black farmers could benefit from the lawsuit. But one Clanton man says it isn’t time to celebrate just yet.

“I don’t concede until all the results are filled, and all the results are not in yet,” said Evangelist Robert Binion, president of the National Black Farmers Association’s Southern Region and also a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “After President Obama signed, we didn’t have a right to toast champagne because this isn’t over yet. Black farmers have been treated like second class citizens in this lawsuit, and really and truly we haven’t received anything — we were arguing over money that was already ours.”

The lawsuit called for $1.2 billion to go to black farmers who contended that federal agriculture officials had denied them loans because of their race and $1.5 billion to be shared by at least 300,000 Indians to compensate them for the mismanagement of money the government collected or was supposed to collect on their behalf.

American Indians were also granted $1 billion to settle lawsuits over water rights filed by Indian tribes in Arizona, Montana and New Mexico and provide reservations with access to clean drinking water.

“Out of all the farmers that applied, only 5,000 to 7,000 people will receive money in this lawsuit,” said Binion. “Black farmers are not able to get loans even if they have a good credit score, and it is unfair. If a white farmer applies for a loan, it will take them 30 to 60 days to get the loan, for blacks it takes two years — if they get it.”

All senators from Alabama voted against the lawsuit, Binion said.

“I hope the farmers who get paid are satisfied, but farmers are losing their houses as we speak,” said Binion.

“The lawsuit is not finished; it’s just being camouflaged. I’ve been following the Black Farmers lawsuit since 1990 and here it is 2011 and we still are not getting fairness. Maybe one day justice will rain down like water.”
In September, Binion led black farmers from Selma, Uniontown and areas in Chilton County to Washington, D.C., to protest what they believed were discriminatory practices by the United States Department of Agriculture. He also met with national leaders to let the farmers’ voices continue to be heard.
“‘We’re too legit to quit’ in the words of a famous person,” said Binion. “We can’t quit, we have to continue until we get there.”