Black farmers continue to wait for justice

By Nicole Bell - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

DINWIDDIE, VA (WWBT) – Time is running out. That's the message from black farmers who are owed money in a racial discrimination suit against the government.

Those connected to the case say elderly black farmers are dying while waiting to collect. A local pioneer of the black farmer's movement recently passed away while awaiting justice.

87 year old John Moses Bonner farmed hundreds of acres in Dinwiddie for most of his life.

"He did it until he couldn't do it no more," said nephew, Thomas Wyatt.

On April 11, Bonner died. His death is being called a symbol of a growing concern.

"Many are dying waiting for justice," said Dr. John Boyd, President of the National Black Farmer's Association.

In 1996 a class action lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The plaintiffs, which consisted of thousands of black farmers, claimed they were discriminated against in USDA loans and subsidies between 1983 and 1997.

"This is an agency that's supposed to lend a hand up to all farmers and they didn't do that for black farmers - that led to a loss of farms and a loss of lives," said Boyd.

A settlement was reached in 1999 for $1.25 billion dollars. More than a decade later many farmers have not been paid. In part, because Congress has yet to appropriate the payout.

"This is an issue between right and wrong. These people were wronged and somebody has got to make it right," said Boyd.

Boyd has met with congressional leaders in an effort to speed up the payout process.

"They were all good meetings but when are the meetings going to turn into results in the form of money for black farmers," said Boyd.

The answer to that question is unclear. What's certain, is that Bonner's family says it will continue to wait and fight for due justice.

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