Today, for the sixth time, the US Senate failed to approve funding for a settlement for tens of thousands of black farmers intended to remedy decades of discrimination by the USDA. Though no one disputes the discrimination occurred, the Senate has now left black farmers hanging on failed votes 6 times.
The Senate's most recent vote on the settlement funding -- already supported by the House and Obama Administration -- was part of the Small Business Bill that failed after becoming embroiled in jockeying over amendments. Future votes on this measure have now been delayed until Monday.
States with the greatest number of black farmers include: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee. From these states only Senators Hagan (D-NC), Landrieu (D-LA), Lincoln (D-AR), and Prior (D-AR), had the conviction to support the farmers. Shockingly the following senators voted against their own black farmer constituency: Senator Alexander (R-TN); Senator Chambliss (R-GA); Senator Coburn (R-OK); Senator Cochran (R-MS); Senator Corker (R-TN); Senator DeMint (R-SC); Senator Graham (R-SC); Senator Inhofe (R-OK); Senator Isakson (R-GA); Senator Sessions (R-AL); Senator Shelby (R-AL); Senator Vitter (R-LA); Senator Wicker (R-MS); and Senator Burr (R-NC).
John Boyd Jr., a working farmer and founder of the National Black Farmers Association, expressed both frustration and determination: "Black farmers deserve better than partisan politics, they deserve the justice that America promises all its citizens. The Senate has failed us and failed our shared American ideals, but we will not be denied."
If black farmers are once again stripped out of the Small Business Bill, Boyd is renewing his call that Sen. Harry Reid to take an up or down vote on the settlement funding to the Senate floor.
Boyd and the tens of thousands of farmers want approval of the settlement before the Senate adjourns in August so that those discriminated against by the USDA can at last receive justice. Many black farmers are now reaching old age and/or are in dire financial straits.
The House has already voted to fund the approximately $1 billion settlement, and the Obama Administration has expressed its support.
The quest for justice has the support of a bipartisan team of lawmakers as well as the NAACP, the RainbowPUSH Coalition, Inc., the National Action Network and the Urban League.