The Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus (LLBC) is holding its annual retreat today (Jan. 31) through Friday (Feb. 3) at the Holiday Inn Lafayette, 2032 NE Evangeline Thruway in Lafayette.
Rep. Roy Burrell of Shreveport has coordinated the Black Farmers Workshop, which will be held Thursday (Feb. 2).
In addition to speakers from Louisiana, Burrell, a former farmer, invited speakers from Washington DC to Tennessee. They will address issues affecting Louisiana black farmers and the nation.
Many black farmers, national and religious leaders, education and legal experts are expected to attend joined State Legislators to address the rapid decline of the black farmers in Louisiana and the nation. Topics range from Civil Rights Litigation, Rural Community and Economic Development, Land Preservation, Oil and Gas and Sustainable Farming, etc.
Black Farmers continue their fight for civil rights against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Many black farmers are still in a battle for injunctive relief from the US courts to be compensated for their loss of dignity, pride, legacy and family wealth due to past racial discrimination.
Currently, black farmers are involved in Pigford vs Glickman, a class action lawsuit alleging discrimination by the USDA in its allocation of farm loans and assistance.
In 1999, the US District Court of the District of Columbia awarded black farmers over $6 billion, the largest ever award for a discriminatory case.
To date, only about $1 billion has been paid to 13,300 farmers from this suit called Pigford I. Another 70,000 plus black farmers were not compensated due to late filings.
Under then President George W. Bush, the first Pigford I lawsuit settlement was closed without addressing the remaining grievances from late filers. In the 2010 Farm Bill, however, President Barack Obama awarded black farmers another $1.2 billon (called Pigford II) to provide some addition relief to aggrieved farmers but fell grossly short of adequate compensation to the remaining complainants.
Much of the Pigford I settlement went to black farmers in other states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North and South Carolina and Florida that were better informed and legally represented. Other States such as Tennessee, Missouri, Texas and Louisiana were not properly, educated, notified and represented by the court assigned attorneys in the Pigford I case.
Also, these states may not even be included in the Pigford II case settlement since this case depended upon those who were identified in Pigford I.
Louisiana black farmers and those in other states that were left out of both Pigford cases may be forced to file a new class action lawsuit against USDA to address their grievances. The Black Farmers Workshop at the 2012 LLBC Retreat this week could be the catalyst for this legal action.
Panelists for the workshop include:
1. Dr. Joe Leonard III- Office of Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights (Speaker) 202-720-3808
2. Clarence Hawkins- USDA Rural Development State Director of Louisiana (Speaker) 318-473-7920
3. Dr. John Pierre, Esquire -Southern Law Center (Speaker) 225-771-2552
4. Bill Robertson- LA Public Commission(Speaker) 318-676-7464
5. Thomas Burrell- Black Farmers Agriculturalist Association 901- 833-3010
6. Willie Cooper- Farm Service Agency (Speaker) 318-473-7721
7. Dexter Davis - Black Farmers and Landowners Association 318-434-0853
8. Peter Williams- Louisiana Black Farmers Association 318-359-5333
9. Elvadius Fields- Louisiana Association of Cooperatives 318-473-7751
10. Dr. Dawn Mellion Patin- Southern University Agriculture 225-771-2242
11. Mr. Paul Pratt- Chesapeake Energy (Speaker)