Letter to the President

President Barack Obama

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC 20500

RE:Pigford I is better than Pigford II

 January 16, 2012


Mr. President,


The American experience for Black people can be compared to a long arduous and eventful day.  For this reason your election as President was received like a ray of light that announced a new day breaking through that dark and dismal sky.  The long night of Black American history has been a conscious experience of titanic and difficult encounters with the incipient enemies of civil rights.  This metaphor may be considered analogous to the Black American farmers struggle to finally receive the benefits of the Pigford I settlement.  The hope of finally receiving compensation for years of past governmental and systematic discrimination is now challenged by the provision you instituted: Pigford II.  Your intent to embrace those claimants that did not receive timely notification about the Consent Decree was hailed as administrative grace.  However, the administrative inclusion of other minorities was a magnanimous gesture, but ultimately it assigned those who originally filed and won the Timothy Pigford V. Dan Glickman Lawsuit to a less than favorable status.

In reality Pigford II nullifies and contravenes the benefits of Pigford I from being awarded to the Black farmer, who are the historic victims of discrimination. We believe you unintentionally handed USDA the means to deny what the Congress established through Pigford I.  For a certainty, all black farmers should have remained in Pigford I.  The court agrees that Pigford I was not properly executed and we believe that Pigford II denies Black farmers the right of due process. The wavier associated with Pigford II reads as follows in the Class Action Claim Form:

You will be bound by the Neutral’s ruling on the Claimant’s claim, and the Neutral’s decision will be the final determination on the claims.  You forever and finally give up the right to appeal or seek review of the Neutral’s decision in any court (or before any other tribunal) and forever and finally release USDA from any and all claims raised that have been or could have been raised in re Black Farmer Discrimination Litigation. (Understand and Agree)

The Black Farmers and Agriculturalist Association, Inc.(BFAA) is concerned about the aforementioned wavier and the potential impact it is having. The original Pigford I language of section 741 provided the class group compensatory damages of $50,000.00 and injunctive relief of 2.5 million dollars on a case by case determination. Pigford II denies injunctive relief.  The prospect of having to sign away one’s right of appeal forever and the specter of never being able to redress circumstances that deny the long awaited compensation are untenable.  This arbitrary and capricious wavier will not go unchallenged. BFAA cannot tolerate this imposition to Black’s just concerns.

There are certain political realities you and those who seek our vote must consider during the coming election year.  The rollback of civil rights, such as demands for a photo ID cards, voting rights challenges, and the constant attacks upon the middle class, are issues you understand all too well.  Our constituents around the country understand the Tea Party’s endeavors and validate Occupy America, but we clergy consider the Black farmers concerns as the most significant historical and enduring unpretentious movement on the American scene.  Your consideration of the request by the Black Farmers and Agriculturalist Association, Inc., (BFAA) to roll back Pigford II into the original Pigford I is necessary. The Black Farmers and Agriculturalist Association, Inc. headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee has chapters around the entire country.  BFAA is acutely aware our lobbying and political action among elected officials of the land will help or harm success in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.  We are encouraging politicians to understand we support those who respond to the needs of our community.  BFAA will gladly support those who support due process and fairness for Black Farmers.  Truly, it is that time of the year!

Mr. Obama, my colleagues and I want to remind you that the Obama administration beat back the impending depression handed you from the previous Republican administration.  We laud your accomplishment of protecting the nation and ending the war in Iraq.  You are the man who provided Osama Bin Laden with a measure of justice!  You are the President and the gentleman who has the audacity to reinitiate the original Consent Decree known as Pigford I.

While others use euphemism for the problems of today’s world, I will not.  These are tough days that demand a person with equally strong character and raw political courage to do the right thing.  America needs jobs and the farm is where youth in need of a fresh start can find careers doing something transformative, redemptive and practical.  We clergy of the Ecumenical Action Committee know that economic justice creates social development, financial stability and new perspective- rebuilding the whole society.

In Memphis, Tennessee, on January 2, 2012, more than 500 persons from six states gathered to register their support for our cause.  Clergyman, elected officials, farmers, young, old, male and female rallied for the return of Pigford I.  If we are not aggressive in this matter the designated “Cy Pres Beneficiaries” (Section V.E.12) promoted in Pigford II may possibly receive more compensation than Black Farmers.  It is clear that you must do something comprehensive and make the adjustment back to Pigford I as a matter of fairness.

Mr President our committee is requesting the following:

1)      We ask that you direct the Attorney General to propose a Consent Amendment to the  existing Pigford II Settlement that allows claimants, whose claims are denied, judicial review of their claims consistent with the review provided under Pigford I

2)      We ask that you direct the Secretary of agriculture to allow successful claimants under the Pigford II “Settlement to apply for a one-time priority USDA loan consistent with Pigford I’s injunctive relief.  We further ask that these applicants be granted a “credit wavier”, as their consumer credit conditions are in whole or in part consequences of the prior discriminatory treatment.

Respectfully, The Clergy of the Ecumenical Action Committee

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