Newswire : Federation files motion for Summary Judgement in Black farmers debt relief lawsuit

EAST POINT, Ga. – On Monday, July 18, 2022, attorneys for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund (“the Federation”) filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. If granted, Section 1005 of the American Rescue Plan could be implemented as originally passed by Congress and signed by the President. This would eliminate any on-going delay in the receipt of debt relief for the 17,000 farmers and ranchers of color, which includes 3,100 Black farmers, who have been waiting for this promise to be kept for over a year.

The Federation’s Motion asks the presiding Judge to acknowledge the historical and ongoing discrimination against socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. Specifically, the Federation argues in the twenty-three years since the Pigford decision, Black and other socially disadvantaged farmers across the country have continued to experience discriminatory conduct at the hands of the USDA and FSA, including lack of outreach, lack of assistance, mistreatment, misinformation, lack of communication, arbitrary denials, unreasonable requests, delays in application processing, delays in application approval, and delays in loan disbursements.

Supported by members and ally organizations, the Federation secured over a dozen additional Declarations which were submitted on behalf of farmers and ranchers who had either experienced race-based discrimination by a USDA agency or witnesses or had other personal knowledge of race-based discrimination by a USDA agency in the past 10 years. These brave farmers and ranchers boldly expressed the devastating impact of race-based discrimination in accessing credit to start, maintain, and expand their farming operations.

In addition to the experiences shared by farmers and ranchers of color, several experts provided reports to contextualize the broader implications of race-based discrimination on the
these farmers including the financial impact. Associate Professor at the College of William & Mary, Adrienne M. Petty, Ph.D., stated- “The Pigford decision was not the turning point that it could have been. The USDA has not taken deep and lasting steps to combat discrimination in the administration and thrust of its programs. It continues to vest administration of its loan programs in county committees despite the Pigford case establishing the discriminatory impact of these committees.”
Upon learning the Federation’s Motion was filed, Dãnia Davy, Director of Land Retention & Advocacy, said, “We are
grateful to our attorneys for their exceptional representation. This Motion for Summary Judgment comprehensively outlines the unrelenting impact of discrimination in credit access and its role on the persistent loss of Black farmers, farms, and land. We are exceedingly grateful for the farmers and ranchers who courageously shared their stories as well as the outpouring of support from the ally organizations that have helped spread the word on the on-going debt relief and credit access needs of Black farmers.”

This year, as part of this administration’s focus on equity and the Secretary of Agriculture’s commitment to transforming the USDA, the Federation signed multiple agreements with USDA to provide outreach and technical assistance to Black farmers, landowners and cooperatives.

“The Federation has and will continue to work with USDA to ensure the government benefits it is authorized to administer are accessible to the Black farmers and landowners who heroically persist in the noble profession of feeding our communities and protecting our environment,” said Cornelius Blanding, Executive Director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund.

Counsel for the USDA and Plaintiffs previously filed their respective Motions for Summary Judgment. A ruling on all three (3) motions can be expected any day now.

Any questions about the Federation’s filing or case status can be directed to: daniadavy@federation.coop