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Black Farmers meeting calls for challenge against discrimination

A Black Farmers meeting on May 11 at E.M. Henry Head Start in Clanton featured Attorney Corey Lea of The Cowtown Foundation Inc. in Tennessee, who traced the history and detailed legal aspects of a two-decades-old concern about discrimination against minority farmers.

Facilitated by evangelist and leader Robert Binion, the meeting opened with a prayer and hymn surrendering the issue to God and calling farmers present at the meeting to challenge the USDA about their alleged mistreatment.

“We are fighting for equal rights for everybody. It so happened that the equal rights didn’t fall on us. It so happened we were disadvantaged farmers,” Binion said. “We are being mistreated. I don’t know whether it’s by accident, I don’t know how it’s come about, but we are being mistreated as farmers — black farmers and disadvantaged farmers.”

The concern initiated after the 1996 Pigford vs. Glickman case instituted compensation for minority farmers who were denied USDA loans. Allegedly, many farmers who qualified for funds under this class action lawsuit did not receive any money.

“They said in the lawsuit that lawyers wouldn’t take any money until we got paid,” Binion said. “We haven’t got paid yet.”

Another claim was that minority farmers have been denied a hearing with the administrative law judge.

Lea explained that The Cowtown Foundation exists to advocate for farmers, representing them before the administrative law judge in an effort to ensure that federal assistance is provided to those who are qualified and approved by the USDA for it.

Minority farmers who believe they have been discriminated against were encouraged to save evidentiary documentation of their Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) approval to present to the USDA in requesting funds, and then to contact The Cowtown Foundation for further assistance should funds be denied.

“Keep your paperwork, and when people come to help you, it makes it easier for them to be able to see where you are, what you did or how you did it — and if that was a mistake, to find that mistake, correct that mistake and tell you what we need to do in order to move on to the next step,” Gertrude Wall of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System told attendees.

A portion of the meeting was dedicated to recruiting individuals to rally on the steps of the federal courthouse in Montgomery on June 1 at 10 a.m. to submit an injunction and a lawsuit about the NAP allegedly refusing to give funds to minority applicants for required irrigation systems.

“I say to the farmers, those that still farm, just keep the fight on,” Binion said. “And those that are not, just push us a little farther forward. If you don’t want to farm, help somebody else along the way. And we are going to continue on until we get this fight over.”

For more information about The Cowtown Foundation Inc., visit thecowtownfoundation.org.