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Black farmers in Arkansas fight for fair financial compensation for USDA discrimination



Pine Bluff, Arkansas – At the Pine Bluff Convention Center on Wednesday, the Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association (BFFA) held a meeting with several hundred black farmers in Arkansas to discuss financial aid programs offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As part of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2021, Congress has allocated $2.2 billion in financial aid for farmers, ranchers, and forest owners who faced discrimination from the USDA prior to January 2021.

According to the USDA webpage:

USDA recognizes the Department has not done enough historically to ensure all customers have equal access to its programs and services.

The Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association (BFAA) president, Thomas Burrell, stated that the application procedure is intricate and multifaceted due to its length of forty pages.

“We believe this 40-page application is going to succeed in denying the African American community and what other money is left over will give it to other farming communities,” Burrell said.

According to Burrell, the BFFA asked the federal court to rule that the application is “arbitrary” and “flimsy” in a document they submitted.

“Why does it take 40 pages on whether or not this person who you admit you have discriminated against would have to use to qualify,” Burrell said.

According to Burrell, the USDA extended the deadline for submitting the application to January the day before the trial, following the BFFA’s complaint filed in August challenging the previous deadline of October 31.

Grady, Arkansas-based farmer Jaquelyn Wilber Smith said she has had loan denials on occasion and has occasionally witnessed other white female farmers with comparable credit being approved for three times the amount.

Wilber-Smith claimed that after struggling to understand why she was consistently rejected, she one day got an unexpected reaction.

“This person walked up behind me and said, ‘Just follow me., Wilber-Smith said. “[She said] ‘Listen if anybody asks you, I am going to deny this, but you didn’t get it because you’re black.”

Wilber-Smith pointed out that some farmers would find the application demoralizing and too complicated to comprehend.

“There’s a lot of trick questions and if you don’t know how to comprehend [it], you’re out of there,’ Wilber-Smith,” A lot of people don’t have kids to come and say ‘Hey dad, mom let me [help you] do this.’

Jimmy L. Jackson claimed it was unfair that applicants could not submit applications on behalf of departed loved ones.

“That’s our legacy, they suffered slavery, they suffered reconstruction, they suffered Jim Crow and it’s continuing, Jackson said.

According to Burrell, the majority of those in attendance were seeking financial support for departed loved ones.

“This is un-American,” Burrell said about not being able to apply for past family members, “That’s what generational wealth is all about, leaving something for your children’s children, even if it’s the proceeds of the lawsuit.



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