Black Farmers File Claims in USDA Settlement

When Roy James needed money to buy equipment and dig an irrigation well for his father’s Mississippi farm, he applied for a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture — but was turned down.

The USDA said it denied the application filed in 1995 because James had inadequate education and didn’t have farming experience — even though he had a college degree and had worked for years on the farm that grows soybean, wheat and cotton.

“I couldn’t understand why they turned me down,” James said. “It was confusing.”

He became more frustrated when he found out he missed a deadline to take part in a settlement reached by black farmers with the USDA over discrimination claims. The 1999 settlement of the Pigford v. Glickman lawsuit provided about $1 billion to 15,000 farmers who say the agency unfairly turned them down for loans because of their race between 1981 and 1996.

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