April 23, 2009  
Contact: Jerry Pennick - 404 765 0991

Black Farmer Lawsuit Creates An Emerging Industry
April 28th protest against USDA is counter productive and self-serving

ATLANTA....A cottage industry has developed over the past ten years. The engine that drives that industry is the Black farmers’ lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture that settled in 1999. The fuel is the Black farmers who are unfortunate enough to come in contact with the “Lawsuit Robber Barons“ – unscrupulous attorneys, black farmer leaders and organizations - that run this industry. They have seized the opportunity to make a buck at the expense of black farmers; they provide absolutely no services and most have no real constituency other than their own egos and greed. The “Lawsuit Robber Barons“ have made it extremely difficult for legitimate lawyers and organizations to effectively assist and represent Black farmers because the public and some USDA officials do not recognize the distinction.
There are attorneys and organizations teetering on financial disaster because they chose to put the farmers’ interest ahead of their own while the “Lawsuit Robber Barons” are ripping off black farmers as well as the public. They have a well-oiled public relations campaign and a keen understanding of human nature. This has allowed them to fool the public while taking advantage of Black farmers.
A case in point is the protest against the USDA scheduled for April 28th, 2009 in Washington, D.C. After reading the press release at least twice I still do not understand what the protest is about. The current Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, has been in office less than 100 days and has already issued a 14 point memorandum on how he intends to address Black farmer issues including a 90 day moratorium on foreclosures; he has also met with Black farmers to hear their concerns and get their input on how the USDA could better address those issues. In addition, the 2008 Farm Bill contains a minimum of one hundred million dollars for qualified late claimants in the Black farmers lawsuit.
We do not yet know what the outcome of the secretary’s efforts will be nor have we had enough time to accurately judge his commitment to creating a more fair and equitable USDA. However, for those who claim to represent Black farmers, fairness dictates that he be given a chance. There will be plenty of time for protest and outrage should he fail.
A protest at this juncture would be counter productive and self-serving. It only provides additional fuel for the “Lawsuit Robber Barons“ as they gear up to expand their growing industry.

Note: The Federation/LAF, now in its 41st year,  assists Black family farmers across the South with farm management, debt restructuring, alternative crop suggestions, marketing expertise and a whole range of services to ensure family farm survivability.