Racial and Ethnic Tensions in American Communities: Poverty, Inequality, and DiscriminationVolume VII: The Mississippi Delta Report

Chapter 1

Equality of Economic Opportunity


Socioeconomic Conditions

The Lower Mississippi Delta region is an enormous area encompassing portions of seven states—Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee—beginning in southern Illinois and ending at the southeastern tip of Louisiana. The Delta is composed of 219 counties and is home to 8.3 million people.[1] A majority of the residents are black and their current socioeconomic condition, which has been the subject of numerous studies, can generally be characterized as one of limited economic resources; inadequate employment opportunities; insufficient decent, affordable housing; and poor quality public schools. The region’s unique history of slavery, with its debilitating legacies—the sharecropping system, Jim Crow laws, the concentration of wealth in the hands of a minority white population, the political disenfranchisement of blacks, and the nearly total social segregation of the races—has been well documented and is generally viewed as the most significant factor in the region’s present position as among the poorest, if not the poorest, section of the nation based on virtually every socioeconomic measurement.


In each of the 13 Mississippi counties selected by the Commission for review, blacks constitute the majority of the population, from a low of 53 percent in Yazoo County, to a high of 76 percent in Holmes County.

Black Population for Selected Mississippi Counties


% black



























Source:  U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, County & City Data Book, 1994.

Each of these majority-black counties is marked by high unemployment and high poverty rates for all residents. For example, Tunica County, which has been called “America’s Ethiopia” by the Reverend Jesse Jackson,[2] has the highest percentage of families living below the poverty level, 50.5 percent, and the highest unemployment, 17 percent. And, with the exception of Humphreys and Yazoo, all selected counties are marked by double-digit unemployment rates and high family poverty rates, from 27.9 percent in Washington County, to Tunica’s 50.5 percent.  

Families below Poverty Level and Unemployed for Selected Mississippi Counties


%  below poverty

% unemployed








































Source:  U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1990 Census of Population, Social and Economic Characteristics, Mississippi, table 3, p. 7, and table 2, p. 4.

However bleak a picture is presented by these overall statistics, the profile for black residents is even worse. The percentage of black families with incomes below the poverty level runs from a low of 46.4 percent in Washington County to a high of 68 percent in Tunica County. White families’ poverty rates in the selected counties range from Holmes County’s 7.2 percent to Tallahatchie County’s 14.9 percent.

Families below Poverty Level by Race for Selected Mississippi Counties


Black families

White families







































Source:  U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1990 Census Population, Social and Economic Characteristics, Mississippi, table 8, pp. 31–32, and table 9, pp. 34–36.

The racial disparity is similarly acute in the region’s unemployment rates: although the overall unemployment rate in the 13 counties is 12.1 percent, the rate for blacks averages 13.3 percent, while the white rate averages a mere 3.8 percent.

Unemployment Rates by Race for Selected Mississippi Counties










































Source:  U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1990 Census of Population, Social and Economic Characteristics, Mississippi, table 8, p. 31, and table 9, p. 34.


Although blacks constitute a majority of the population in only one of the seven selected Arkansas counties, 57.4 percent in Chicot, they are a significant percentage of the population throughout the Arkansas Delta region.

TABLE 1.5 
Black Population for Selected Arkansas Counties


%  black















* Includes the city of Pine Bluff.
Source:  U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1990 Census of Population, Social and Economic Characteristics, Arkansas.

And while the overall percentage of families living below the poverty line is lower than the percentage in the Mississippi state portion of the Delta, Arkansas’ poverty rates are still in the double digits in all selected counties. Further, the high overall unemployment rates rival those found in the Mississippi Delta region.

Families below Poverty Level and Unemployed for Selected Arkansas Counties


% families below poverty level

% unemployed






















Source:  U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1990 Census of Population, Social and Economic Characteristics, Arkansas, table 3, p. 7, and table 2, p. 4.

Like Mississippi state, the Arkansas Delta’s poverty and unemployment rates are higher for its black population, with both averaging three to five times those for whites.

Unemployment and Family Poverty Rates by Race for Selected Arkansas Counties


% black poverty

% white poverty

% black unemployed

% white unemployed




































* Includes the city of Pine Bluff.
Source:  U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1990 Census of Population, Social and Economic Characteristics, Arkansas, table 8, p. 30, and table 9, p. 33. 


The six selected Louisiana parishes include East Carroll Parish where, according to Time magazine, there was found “The Poorest Place in America”—the town of Lake Providence.[3] According to the 1990 census, the median annual income for two-thirds of the town, Block Numbering Area 9903, is $6,536, the lowest in the nation, whereas the official national poverty level for a family of four is $14,764.[4] In addition, a study found that in Lake Providence, 70.1 percent of children younger than 18 are living in poverty—the highest rate in the nation.[5] As for overall family poverty rates, the black rate is 75.7 percent, while the rate for white families is 15.2 percent.

Black Population for Selected Louisiana Parishes


% black

East Carroll*










West Carroll


* Includes Lake Providence.
** Includes Monroe.
Source:  U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, County & City Data Book, 1994, table B, p. 242.

Unemployment and Family Poverty Rates by Race for Selected Louisiana Parishes


% black poverty

% white poverty

% black unemployed

% white unemployed

East Carroll

























West Carroll





Source:  U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1990 Census of Population, Social and Economic Characteristics, Louisiana, table 8, pp. 39–40, and table 9, pp. 43–44.

Based on the data presented in tables 1.1–1.9 above, it is clear that the Delta is an economically impoverished region for both blacks and whites. However, the data also reveal that black Delta citizens are the poorest of the poor. In every section of the region a majority, or near majority, of the black residents live in poverty. Such is not the case for a majority of the region’s white residents.

One of the more comprehensive reports on the area was completed by the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission (Delta Commission), established by the U.S. Congress in October 1988 to study and make recommendations regarding economic conditions in the entire Lower Mississippi region.[6] In its 1990 final report on the area’s 219 counties and parishes in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, and Kentucky, the Delta Commission referred to the region as a place where:

jobs are scarce and jobs skills training almost unknown; where infant mortality rates rival those in the Third World; where dropping out of school and teenage pregnancy are commonplace; where capital for small farmers and small businesses is severely limited; where good housing and health care are unattainable for many; where industrial technology lags a decade behind and funds for research and development barely trickle to colleges and universities; where illiteracy reigns as a supreme piece of irony: the region has produced some of the best writers and the worst readers in America.[7]

Another recent study that essentially reiterates many of the Delta Commission’s findings is a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis titled Rural Economic Development: A Profile of Eight Rural Areas Located in the Lower Mississippi Delta Region. This February 1995 report, which profiles eight rural areas of the Lower Mississippi Delta region to assess the economic development and credit needs of the communities, followed approximately 120 meetings with more than 200 residents and representatives of lending institutions and community, housing, and small-business development organizations. Among the many problems noted were the region’s crisis in housing, particularly its lack of decent, affordable housing for low-income and elderly residents; residents’ inability to obtain home improvement loans; a severe shortage of rental housing; a limited amount of land available for new home construction; a continued need for financial support for the region’s dwindling agricultural business; and the difficulties small businesses encounter in acquiring capital and credit. The main goal of all communities, according to the report, is the creation of jobs,[8] a goal that has been identified by public officials and theorists alike as a prerequisite for the region’s revitalization.[9]


Although equality of opportunity in agriculture will be more fully discussed later in this report, it is clear that the sheer number of jobs in agriculture in the Delta has declined significantly in recent years, beginning with the increased mechanization of farming in the early part of this century. The research and history do not indicate any reversal of this trend. Accordingly, it is unlikely that agriculture will provide the number of new jobs that must be created to revitalize the economy and equalize economic opportunities for black and white residents.

Farm work today has been toppled from its previous position as the region’s primary source of employment to be replaced in part by the catfish industry.[10] Seventy-five percent of the world’s supply of catfish comes from Mississippi.[11] It has been reported that the industry is a $247 million per year business for the state of Mississippi[12] and that it generates $1 billion in sales for the entire Delta region.[13] However, questions have been raised as to whether this industry is capable of providing a majority of the necessary jobs and financial security for the region’s impoverished black masses since the demand for catfish has decreased, its employees are mainly seasonal, the jobs provide no benefits, and employees receive no profits from the industry.[14]

Lack of financial resources and financial insecurity in general are also possibilities for more prosperous black residents of the Delta. The region has noted a decline in the number of black teachers due at least in part to difficulties blacks have encountered with teacher certification requirements.[15] Regardless of the reasons for such problems, a decline in black teachers is likely to adversely affect educational attainment by black students, which in turn will negatively affect the ability of the region to attract employers who desire an educated, literate work force.[16] This potential problem will be more fully addressed in the education portion of this report. The financial security of other nonpoor blacks in the region may also be threatened due to discrimination. According to some reports, black attorneys in the Delta are subjected to greater scrutiny by bar associations than white attorneys, and black physicians are being denied hospital privileges due to discrimination by whites.[17]

The most recent significant business development, which has inspired hope in both black and white communities for improved economic opportunities, is Mississippi’s legalization of dockside gaming casinos. In 1991, the state enacted the Gaming Control Act legalizing gambling, with the first gaming boat opening on August 1, 1992.[18] Near the time of the Commission’s Mississippi Delta hearing,[19] there were 29 state-regulated casinos and, according to the state gambling commission, 13 of the 29 casinos were in majority-black counties: 9 in Tunica County, 3 in Washington County; and 1 in Coahoma County.[20] The available employment data for 27 of the 29 casinos at that time is shown in table 1.10.

TABLE 1.10
Employment in Mississippi Casinos, June 1997















Asian [American]




Native American

Source: Paul A. Harvey, executive director, Mississippi Gaming Commission, letter to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, June 20, 1997.

Despite this apparently positive statistical information that tends to support the state gaming commission’s contention its work force is representative of the region’s population—both in terms of race and gender—the Mississippi Gaming Commission maintains no data on race or gender for the various jobs within the casinos or on the salaries of casino employees by race and gender. It is not the function or the responsibility of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, which is a regulatory law enforcement body, to request or collect data on equal opportunity employment in the casinos. Indeed, there is no requirement such data be tracked by the state gambling commission, which has no responsibility or authority regarding the promotion or enforcement of equal employment opportunity within the industry.[21]

The introduction of casinos in Mississippi clearly has dramatically increased the number of jobs in the region and has resulted in increased revenue for the state. In the Delta, casino jobs have coincided with an extraordinary decline in overall unemployment rates. Between 1992 and 1993, Tunica County, currently home to nine casinos, has noted a 32.1 percent decrease in its overall unemployment rate, from 13.7 percent to 9.3 percent.[22] Tunica residents saw a 30.4 percent increase in employment.[23] Unemployment rates also dropped in counties adjacent to those with casinos, suggesting a significant number of new casino employees were residents of the neighboring counties.[24] And, according to the executive director of the state gaming commission who maintains that the introduction of casinos has profoundly and positively affected the Delta and its black residents, “anyone who wants a job, can get a job.”[25]

Employment information on Mississippi’s state-regulated casinos is collected at both the state and federal levels. At the federal level, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) collects and publishes employment information that provides a breakdown of the employer’s work force by race, sex, and national orgin, and by occupation.[26] At the state level, the Mississippi Gaming Comission keeps a record of the total number of casino employees, and the Mississippi Employment Security Commission provides labor force data. Quarterly survey information from the Mississippi Gaming Comission through September 30, 2000, showed 34,263 people were employed by casinos in Mississippi.[27]

Casinos in four counties participated in EEOC’s 1999 EEO-1 survey.[28] A 1997 population report by the Mississippi Employment Security Commission indicated approximately 75 percent of the population in the participating counties was white and 25 percent was nonwhite.[29] Statistical data by race and ethnicity from the EEO-1 aggregate report revealed:

The EEO-1 report also provided statistical data by occupation. Occupations were divided into nine categories: officials and managers, professionals, technicians, sales workers, office and clerical workers, craft workers, operatives, laborers, and service workers. Percentages by categories are as follows:

Apart from employment statistics, there appear to be other financial benefits of legalized gaming to both the state and local governments. The industry has earmarked 7.2 percent of its gross revenues for the state’s general fund, and 0.8 percent is allocated to the cities or counties that have legalized gaming.[37] In addition, local and private legislation place a 3.2 percent tax on gaming revenues to benefit local governments for specific public purposes, e.g., education.[38] Statewide, in fiscal year 1995, over $144.6 million in revenue went to the state, and over $69 million was allocated to local governments that have legalized gaming.[39] It has been reported that casinos provide approximately $2.5 million per month in revenues to Tunica County alone and that from August 1994 to August 1995 total profits from Tunica casinos were $46.8 million per month, more than any other casino in the state.[40] Tunica was also the first market to reach $60 million in monthly revenue and in August 1995 reported profits of 64.2 million.[41] In 1993, US News & World Report listed Mississippi as first in a national ranking of states in economic recovery based primarily on its legalized gambling.[42]

The question remains whether the introduction of legalized gaming will result in sustainable job growth for a significant percentage of the region’s unemployed and impoverished residents. Will these jobs offer Delta residents livable wages and opportunities for employment advancement in a nondiscriminatory manner? Will the casinos provide the quantity and quality of jobs that must be created in the Delta in order to significantly improve the lives of its citizens? Before the introduction of casinos, significant occupational segregation by race existed in the Delta, with blacks heavily concentrated in lower paying jobs. In Bolivar County, Mississippi, for example, as of the 1990 U.S. census, whites were 52 percent and blacks 48 percent of the total population of employed persons over the age of 16.[43] Yet whites held 63 percent of the managerial positions and 72 percent of the technical and sales positions, while blacks held 74 percent of the low-level service jobs and 69 percent of the operator and general laborer positions.[44]

The statistical data support the argument that occupational segregation exists in the legalized gaming industry. Anecdotal evidence also suggests possible problems in this area and, in general, with the concept that legalized gaming alone represents a viable long-term solution to the economic problems facing the region’s black population. It has been reported blacks are mainly employed in minimum-wage jobs and, as a group, have high termination and turnover rates.[45]

During the Commission’s hearing, one witness questioned a Delta casino’s decision to hire as a casino manager a Bosnian immigrant only two years in the United States rather than a local resident.[46] The economic assistance regional director for the Mississippi State Department of Human Services, who formerly served as the director of the Tunica County Department of Human Services, disagreed with the conclusion reached by the gaming commission executive director that “anyone who wants a job can get a job,” citing the unavailability of casino employment for those who are classified as borderline disability cases under Social Security or Supplemental Security Income standards.[47] Moreover, in a region of the country well known for its historically socially conservative climate, many blacks, for religious reasons alone, would rather remain unemployed than work in a casino.[48]

Finally, the dramatic financial dividends of legalized gambling are also accompanied by devastating economic and social consequences, according to some experts. At its September 1998 hearing in Biloxi, Mississippi, the National Gambling Impact Study Commission received testimony regarding the alleged increase in personal bankruptcies connected to gambling problems. Although national surveys show 2 percent of bankruptcies are connected to gambling, results of a study presented at the hearing by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission indicated a much greater rate of bankruptcies related to gambling—21 percent—when people are in close proximity to a casino.[49] And although there was testimony from Mississippi officials on the benefits of gambling, particularly for Tunica County, there was also testimony from a researcher who maintained his study of the effects of legalized gaming nationwide establishes that casinos produce little economic gain for the communities in which they are located.[50]

Clearly, jobs have been created and many previously unemployed blacks have found employment in the gaming industry. However, poorly educated and unskilled residents have been unable to take advantage of the employment opportunities in the gaming industry, which has yet to prove long-term viability and profitability. Finally, no mechanism exists to ensure that Delta blacks, who obtain employment in the industry, will obtain equality of opportunity in job placement, working conditions, and advancement.[51]

Job growth has also occurred in other business sectors. Northwest Mississippi during 1980–1996 saw a 17 percent increase in the manufacturing employment, while nationwide, this industry remained basically unchanged, according to the director of the Delta Council.[52] And although some job growth in the manufacturing sector is related to agriculture, much of it is the result of nonagriculture-related new businesses. In Cleveland, Mississippi, for example, Baxter Healthcare produces intravenous solutions for medical use and Duo-Fast makes nails and staples.[53] Greenwood, Mississippi, is now the site of Viking Range, which produces kitchen appliances and Irving Automotive, which manufactures interior parts for Ford and Toyota. In addition, it was reported in May 1998 Viking began construction in Itta Bena, Mississippi, of a new $4.1 million facility.[54] This growth in manufacturing jobs, according to some reports, has resulted in $924 million in wages in 1996 for 40,000 employees and a rise in per capita income from $6,000 in 1980 to $17,000 in 1996.[55]

Additionally, the designation of the region as an empowerment zone, according to some reports, has resulted in an increase in nonagriculture-related jobs. This designation has resulted in Dollar General’s construction of a $38 million distribution center in Indianola, Mississippi, which is expected to employ 500, and has been credited with creating additional jobs related to the center, including 300 construction-related jobs and positions in local hotels and restaurants.[56]

Finally, the July 1998 opening of a Union Pacific Railroad terminal in Marion, Arkansas, is expected to result in additional jobs and revenues to the Delta. According to the Federal Railroad Administrator, the $70 million terminal is expected to have a “$2 billion impact on the regional economy by 2008.”[57]

TABLE 1.11
Washington County (Mississippi) Employment and Welfare Statistics


1992 average

1996 average






Total jobs




Manufacturing jobs




Non-manufacturing jobs




Service jobs (includes casino jobs)




Unemployment rate





AFDC cases




AFDC dollar amount      




Food stamp households 7,275 6,900 -5%

Food stamp dollar amount     




* Most recent moving average; the state has not yet set a final figure for 1996.
Source:  Mississippi Employment Security Commission and Mississippi Department of Human Services. Addendum Hearing Exhibits, Paul Artman, mayor, Greenville, MS, Mar. 6, 1997.

Despite statistics showing increases in the number of jobs in casino- and noncasino-related industries, it is questionable whether these new industries are employing a significant number of impoverished Delta residents, who historically have been the victims of discrimination, and whether these businesses are providing poor Delta residents with an equal opportunity to obtain well-paying, permanent jobs with benefits.


Whether unemployed, underemployed, or employed in jobs paying livable wages, Delta residents face a crisis in finding decent, affordable housing. Generally, housing difficulties can be categorized as problems of affordability and quality. Throughout the entire Lower Mississippi Delta region, pervasive problems exist in the housing stock, and the housing conditions of the black population, like other socioeconomic indicators, are worse than those of their white counterparts.[58] In 1990, the median value of all owner-occupied units was $9,282, while the median value of black owner-occupied units was $5,113.[59] Across the region 76 percent of the total owner-occupied units had a median value of less than $14,999; among black owner-occupied units, it was 92 percent.[60] There is a lack of standard housing relative to the needs of low-income, single-parent, and aging households. In the Delta region, approximately 57,000 units have incomplete plumbing, 143,000 are overcrowded, and 650,000 units are “cost burdened.”[61] Of the region’s 2.2 million units, 792,000 have median rents of $40 per month and more than 860,000 are over 40 years old.[62]

The St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank report made similar findings regarding the region’s housing conditions and also found that housing organizations in the region were “few in number and small in size.”[63] In addition, according to the Federal Reserve, new home construction in the Delta is impeded by developers’ reluctance to build in the region, especially their reluctance to build housing that is affordable for lower income Delta residents.[64] Finally, repairs to the region’s many substandard homes are frustrated by owners’ inability to afford home improvement financing under conventional interest rates.[65]

It is possible that the housing affordability and quality problems could be resolved through new jobs created by the expanding catfish and legalized gaming industries. However, current indications are that this is not occurring. For example, in Tunica County property values have increased 9,900 percent near potential casino development sites, suggesting that the price of land for new homes and property taxes may be beyond the means of most residents, even those with casino jobs.[66] There are reports that rents have skyrocketed, that there are few decent, low-cost homes available, and that there is a concerted effort by some white Delta residents to prevent the building of affordable homes for the masses.[67] One local white Tunica developer has been reported as blaming the local planning commission for stalling his efforts to build affordable housing for local blacks because “they don’t want ‘any more houses for black people to live in.’ ”[68]

Strategies to Improve Economic Opportunities

Despite the opinion that some prosperous white Deltans have no desire to see their black neighbors improve their economic circumstances, the seemingly insoluble and intractable poverty, the region’s historic discrimination, and its nearly total economic and social separation of citizens along racial lines—all of which have contributed to the current economic condition of black Delta residents—local and national strategies to address the region’s immense problems have been initiated.

Local Business and Commercial Interests

As the nation moves into a global economy with an increasing need for advanced technological initiatives, some members of the Delta business community are undertaking steps to secure a place for the Delta in this new world and, accordingly, transform the fundamental structure of its economy and the lives of all its residents.

Historically, one of the most powerful business organizations in the region has been the Delta Council, which was formed in 1935 in Stoneville, Mississippi. Among its past accomplishments are persuading the Mississippi State Legislature to allocate a majority of state sales tax revenues from motor fuel to fund a Delta highway program, securing funds from the federal government for flood-control projects, and helping local Delta communities expand their industrial-recruitment programs.[69] In addition, in previous years the organization, which traditionally concentrated its efforts on lobbying at the federal and state levels, succeeded in obtaining federal funds for a number of local Delta projects, e.g., funds to expand agricultural research facilities and weather forecasting services in Stoneville.[70] The council has also been credited with helping to increase the area’s manufacturing wages in the 19-county area in which it operates, from approximately $53 million in 1960 to more than $590 million in 1985.[71] Despite these accomplishments and the generally acknowledged power and influence the organization wields within the region, the Mississippi Delta Council has not been known as an open, broad-based group, and certainly not one in which black Delta residents have participated. One view of the group is that it is “a patrician group of white planters.”[72]

Another Delta-based business organization that apparently is attempting to avoid charges of elitism and racism is the Arkansas Delta Council. Founded in 1990, the organization reportedly is making a concerted effort to include blacks.[73] Pledging that it would not receive any government funds and not issue any reports, the Arkansas Delta Council planned to initiate economic development projects and focus on education. The group’s first projects included negotiating with trade representatives from Japan to increase Arkansas catfish exports, seeking passage of state legislation designed to improve the coordination of the state’s catfish and baitfish producers and processors, and initiating efforts to establish 10 school-based programs for 4-year-olds to complement current kindergarten programs.[74]

Other Delta area business groups, including local chambers of commerce, often in partnership with nonprofit organizations, have strategized to bring new businesses to the area, expand the operations of already existing businesses, stimulate and encourage entrepreneurial activities in the black community, and improve the quality of education provided by the public school systems. Among such efforts are those initiated by the Chamber of Commerce Industrial Foundation of Clarksdale, Mississippi, whose mission is to further economic development, promote the growth of business activity, and increase industrial recruitment and retention.[75] To that end, the foundation has established a manufacturers’ association, sponsored job fairs, and entered into partnerships with the Coahoma (County) Community College Skill Tech Center and the Delta Partners Initiative of Delta State University.[76] The foundation also is a leading organization in the Tri-County Workforce Alliance, which strives to create a collaborative effort for work force development and education.[77] In addition, it has created an Industrial Authority, which owns, manages, maintains and develops land in its industrial parks.[78] The Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, has contracted with the county tourism commission to administer the commission’s activities in an effort to support the region’s tourism industry, which is viewed as a vital part of the local economy.[79]

The executive director of the Washington County (Mississippi) Economic Council reported that, through the council, he has worked to bring a number of new businesses into the Winoma, Mississippi, area, including a small automobile parts manufacturer, two furniture factories, and two automobile brake shoe manufacturers.[80] As a result of these new businesses, there has been a dramatic decline in the county’s unemployment rate—from 26 percent in 1983 to 5–6 percent in 1995.[81] During the same time period, annual work force income increased from $32 million to $76 million, the second largest percentage income increase in that period for all counties in the state.[82]

There have been several other recent initiatives to expand economic opportunities for impoverished Delta residents, including the creation of small-business development centers[83] and assisting a community in its application for designation as an empowerment zone.[84]

In Monroe, Louisiana, which is in Ouachita Parish, the Chamber of Commerce has taken several steps to improve economic conditions and reduce racial tensions. According to the Chamber’s president and chief executive officer, during the process of applying for designation as a federal empowerment zone, the city held communitywide meetings during which more than 1,500 people of all races and economic levels participated.[85] The city’s failure in its bid for designation as an empowerment zone damaged race relations and raised issues of trust and power in the city. However, its designation as an enterprise zone means that it will receive $3 million for a community development corporation to lend money to small businesses to stimulate job growth. Monroe’s Chamber of Commerce also has facilitated a partnership between local schools and businesses, identifying the types of jobs that will exist in the future and revamping the schools’ curriculum so that local students can be qualified for those jobs.[86] The Monroe Chamber of Commerce, according to its president and CEO, is sensitive to the issue of diversity and has taken steps to include blacks in its programs and to introduce blacks to the business community. For example, it has established a Leadership Development Program that sets aside one day per month where selected young to middle-aged Monroe residents—black and white, male and female—along with Chamber members, examine different issues facing the community, e.g., the city’s political structure and business concerns. The yearlong program also includes a retreat during which participants confer with state and local government officials on various issues. In July 1996, the chair of the Leadership Development Program was a black female labor union leader, who also served on the Chamber’s executive committee.[87]

Another Delta community that has instituted a leadership program to improve opportunities for all its citizens is Yazoo City, Mississippi. Sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, several area businesses and the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development, Yazoo City’s leadership program involves area churches and schools in a effort to bring together present and future area leaders in a yearlong program of seminars and retreats.[88] The participants are selected from all parts of the county, and the number of males/females and blacks/whites is representative of the gender and racial composition of Yazoo County.[89]

Community-Based Nonprofit and Self-Help Organizations

Among the latest strategies for improving economic conditions and promoting equality of opportunity for blacks are those being utilized by numerous community, nonprofit, and self-help organizations. These organizations typically are created and organized by coalitions of white and black residents.

One such group originally functioned as a committee within a local chamber of commerce. Now, the Washington County (Mississippi) Industrial Foundation is a separate nonprofit industrial program that strives to retain current jobs in the region and serves as an advocate for new job creation.[90]

In southeastern Arkansas, another organization operates a revolving loan program for small-business people.[91] The program requires that for every $8,000 loan, the borrower must create one new full-time job.[92] Another Arkansas-based organization, with a profit-making subsidiary that has purchased an automobile parts and service center employing low-income residents, plans to acquire two additional businesses.[93] These additional businesses are expected to produce 34 to 36 new jobs.[94] Other initiatives include the Dermott, Arkansas-based Pathways Program whose mission is to train residents to own and operate their own businesses.[95] The program operates businesses, e.g., resale and consignment stores, as laboratories for entrepreneurial training and self-development in four Arkansas counties: Ashley, Chico, Desha, and Drew. However, hindering the program’s efforts is the “traditional lending concept” of the financial industry.[96] Also in Arkansas, the Southeast Arkansas Economic Development District operates a Job Training Partnership Act program that targets high school dropouts.[97]

Arkansas is also home to the East Central Arkansas Economic Development Corp., originally established in August 1964 as an Office of Economic Opportunity community action agency. Currently, the corporation operates a myriad of community-based programs with funds from federal, state, and local governments; foundations; churches; and individuals.[98] Among the corporation’s many projects are its housing program, which has built more than 100 single-family, multiunit, and senior citizen rental housing units in a four-year period. Its current plans include a large single-family home development project consisting of 70 homes and including a large community center—for lease/purchase by low-income residents.[99] In addition, the corporation has established a for-profit subsidiary, East Arkansas Enterprises, Inc., which has purchased an auto parts and service center and several other businesses, all of which employ low-income people.[100]

In Mississippi, the Community Individual Investment Corp. operates a revolving loan fund for new businesses.[101] And one of the major private sector organizations at work in the Delta today to change the socioeconomic conditions in the region is the eight-year-old Foundation for the Mid-South. The foundation is a nonprofit organization that secures funding from private sources to improve economic opportunity, the quality of education, and the services provided to families and children throughout the tristate Delta region. To that end, the foundation provides direct assistance to community-based organizations, towns, churches, schools, and interfaith organizations in the form of grants, training, and technical assistance.

One component of the foundation is the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta, a private nonprofit business development organization begun in June 1994, with the specific mission to assist existing Delta businesses and new businesses by providing needed financing, management assistance, and market development.

Another Mississippi organization is the Delta Foundation, a community development entity that initially was established to increase economic opportunities for blacks in Mississippi but now addresses economic issues of blacks and whites.[102] The Delta Foundation works to encourage business development, create jobs, and increase opportunities for business financing. To date, it has created some 6,000 jobs, 400–500 of which are found in plants run by its profit-making division—Delta Enterprise.[103] The plants of Delta Enterprise, most of which are in Greenville, Mississippi; Canton, Mississippi; and Arkansas, have operated for nearly 20 years and manufacture a number of items, including denim jeans, folding attic stairs, electronic parts, gaskets for weed eaters, and washing machine parts.[104] The Delta Foundation also has established a Small Business Administration-type demonstration program, which provides financing in the form of micro-loans of $10,000 or less and other loans up to a maximum of $25,000 to businesses that would otherwise not be able to obtain financing, many of which are minority owned.[105]

National Programs and Policies

One of the most ambitious efforts to address the region’s poverty is the federal government’s designation of the Mid-Delta region as an empowerment zone. Established by Congress in 1993, the Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community Program was designed to help impoverished areas develop comprehensive approaches to economic development. The program, authorized by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, essentially provides tax incentives and relief to businesses to stimulate the economies of the designated areas and has a special emphasis on creating new jobs.[106] Specifically, a community that is designated as an empowerment zone is required to submit a strategic plan detailing its goals and its plans for attaining those goals with funding assistance from the program. Each empowerment zone or enterprise community is required to include all segments of the community—public, private, and nonprofit as well as federal, state, and local governments—in its comprehensive plan, which must include detailed benchmarks for achievement, timelines, and continuous, ongoing reviews. Administration and oversight of each of the rural community’s or zone’s programs is provided by the Department of Health and Human Services, the individual states, and the Department of Agriculture, which also is responsible for program evaluations and technical assistance.

The Mid-Delta Empowerment Zone is governed by the Mid-Delta Empowerment Zone Alliance Commission, a coalition of representatives from many local organizations, including businesses, churches, and community groups. The commission, like many of the community-based self-help organizations working for economic revitalization of the region, is composed of representatives from the region’s wealthiest citizens as well as its poor and is responsible for effecting the proposals in the program. Indeed, in January 1994, members of this coalition joined together to submit the application for the empowerment zone designation. Among this group were members of two major Delta organizations—the aforementioned predominately white, wealthy Delta Council and the biracial Delta Foundation.

According to a March 1997 U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) report, the Mid-Delta zone’s strategic plan is as follows:

The EZ’s strategic plan focuses on three themes: building community in the Mississippi Delta, increasing economic opportunity in Mississippi Delta communities, and sustaining community and economic development in Mississippi Delta communities. The EZ has 41 benchmarks.

Specific projects for the EZ include the following:

However, the GAO, in the same report, found that the Mid-Delta zone, like many of the other rural enterprise communities and empowerment zones, has experienced difficulties in meeting its goals and establishing benchmarks. The report found that although all the programs had established the requisite organizational structures, several circumstances, including erroneous information to the programs from the U.S. Department of Agriculture; conflict between written and oral guidance provided by the Department of Health and Human Services; and incomplete progress reports had contributed to the programs’ inability to meet expectations regarding their goals.

And criticism of the program does not end with the GAO report. According to the president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the empowerment zone concept is incapable of succeeding due to the nature of the program and the administration responsibility:

Enterprise Zones, hundreds across the nation and none a success, were the precursor to empowerment zones. The failure of the former did not discourage the designers of the new venture . . . The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) aka the House of Urban Decay, has proven itself to be incompetent at business development and economic development. The best business and job growth program at HUD has been its Section 3 initiative which is 29 years old and virtually ignored. How is it going to institute a new high-powered program when it ignores the best one it has? Of all the federal agencies, the Department of Agriculture is probably the most institutionally racist; as a result, Black farmers are an endangered species. Despite the above, guess who the main contributors to empowerment zones are? HUD and the U.S. Department of Agriculture . . . Why doesn’t the Small Business Administration and the Dept. of Commerce oversee this program? Wouldn’t that be logical?[108]

He also asserts that designation of the zones has not resulted in the creation of new businesses, particularly black-owned businesses, but merely has led to the migration of corporate giants to depressed areas in search of tax relief, e.g., Kmart to New York City.

The key to business growth and job production is capital access. However, empowerment zones are based mainly on tax abatements. What good are tax abatements if there is no revenue or income to tax. The only businesses that will be attracted by tax breaks are viable, large businesses in pursuit of reinvestment . . . What does tax abatement mean to a business that has no start-up capital? . . . the problem that exists . . . no capital access . . . I’m still asking for an example of an empowerment zone that has produced a certifiable new Black-owned business that has in turn produced 40 new jobs. To date, it hasn’t happened.[109]

More recently, in 1998 the federal government began a second round of empowerment zone initiatives, adding five rural and 15 urban zones, and also announced plans for a Delta Regional Commission to fulfill the goals set by the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission in the 1980s.[110]

One leading proponent of major changes in current governmental and fiscal policies recommends that public policy shift emphasis to investments as opposed to income maintenance and also concentrate on building assets, enterprise, and economies. According to Robert E. Friedman, author of The Safety Net As Ladder, by emphasizing job creation through enterprise development, with a special concern for approaches that help establish sustaining economies, policymakers in state and local governments, corporations, private foundations, labor unions, and community groups can design and implement innovative and effective economic development strategies.[111] Historically, governmental policies for the poor have concentrated on providing transfer payments and other income maintenance programs. However, some observers believe that this policy has not reduced poverty dependence; instead, it has resulted in institutionalized dependence, has stifled initiative, and has discouraged job creation. Friedman recommends that policies expand choices and treat programs for the poor as investments. This change in focus can be accomplished by encouraging and enabling training and work, and creating jobs, including entrepreneurial opportunities.

Friedman proposes five specific programmatic and policy changes.[112] First, he suggests the removal of all barriers to training, education, employment, and entrepreneurship that are embodied in the present system, e.g., loss of medical insurance and loss of eligibility for benefits. Next, he proposes that government support for recipients be maintained while recipients pursue self-sufficiency. Third, transfer payment recipients and investments should be coordinated and integrated with other investment programs. Fourth, he recommends that states experiment with new programs to the extent that they are allowed to do so in administrating transfer programs. Finally, he suggests that as states review and assess the results of their model programs, they seek congressional approval for more broad-based reforms.

Several witnesses at the Commission’s hearing, the majority of whom were from national organizations, echoed Friedman’s call for national policies encouraging asset building among the poor rather than the historic income maintenance policies. According to these witnesses, not only have income maintenance policies failed to eliminate the intergenerational poverty prevalent in the Delta and elsewhere but they have actually contributed to the perpetuation of the cycle of dependence and poverty:

Economic development within this region requires that there be a holistic approach and recognition that wealth must be created. It must be diversified and it must remain with the affected area, turning over several times before leaving.[113]

The paucity of assets held by residents in poor communities and the absence of asset-building policies and programs available to them are the greatest barriers to eliminating poverty and dependency. Our income maintenance systems are designed to help families and individuals with inadequate income to survive at or near poverty level. These systems are not designed to help people become economically self-sufficient and reduce the probability of intergenerational poverty . . . Economic development programs must begin to address the building of assets, not just providing jobs and increased income . . . The absence of savings, investable assets, property and homeownership, business ownership, and properly timed investments and postsecondary education for the poor leave many families in poverty or on the verge of falling back into poverty.[114]

According to one witness, a federal proposal for Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) would help address the need for asset-building policies to eliminate the Delta’s endemic poverty. Essentially, the IDAs would be funded by public and private moneys that would match the savings of low-income residents. The funds from these accounts would then be used solely for asset building, e.g., as down payments for home purchases, business start-up costs, and trust funds for postsecondary education for children and adults.[115]

Home purchases by low-income Delta residents, which was identified by witnesses as a primary means of accumulating assets and building wealth, could be increased if residents were assured equal opportunity in obtaining mortgage loans. The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act requires that lending institutions in metropolitan areas provide statistical data on the race of home mortgage applicants, and applications granted and denied. However, the act does not apply to rural areas. Imposing similar disclosure requirements on rural areas, according to one hearing witness, would help reveal and, hopefully, eliminate one of the impediments to better housing in the Delta—discriminatory home lending practices.[116] Finally, elimination of the current federal prohibition against borrowing money for a down payment to purchase a home, according to one witness, would not only result in better quality housing for impoverished Delta residents but also would lead to asset building for poor residents.[117]

The New Markets Initiative. From July 5 through July 8, 1999, President Clinton toured rural America to highlight his New Markets Initiative. A legislative proposal incorporating these initiatives was approved by Congress and enacted into law on December 21, 2000.[118] The program will use deferred-interest loans and other incentives to draw the private sector into making capital investments into economically distressed communities. One stop on the tour was Clarksdale, Mississippi, where the President promoted investment in the Mississippi Delta and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI).[119] On this trip, the President mobilized a large and broad array of private sector investments in untapped domestic markets.

The following are just a few of the significant new commitments the private and public sectors are making to America’s New Market:

These new initiatives will expand on the federal programs that have been enacted over the past seven years.[121] While in Mississippi, President Clinton announced $15 million in new private investments in the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta and $500 million in equity from the Bank of America for business enterprises in low-income areas. Of that, $100 million will go into CDFI. Many other firms are pledging millions of dollars as well.[122]

Critics of the program come from both sides of the political spectrum. Laissez-faire capitalists believe government should let market forces take their course, and not try to promote private investment through various incentives. Lyndon Johnson Great Society types, on the other hand, think government needs to be more directly involved in providing economic resources to rural America. . . . Governments from Winnetka to Washington have used tax abatements, enterprise zones and low interest loans for years to direct private sector resources into areas where they are needed. The New Markets Initiative isn’t really new. It’s just a continuation of policies that already have been implemented elsewhere.[123]

In February 2000, an announcement by Firstar Corp. of a $100 million lending initiative in St. Louis was due in part to the New Markets Initiative agenda that has made it very profitable for companies to relocate or open businesses in depressed areas.[124] One important key to making sure the initiative is a success is that corporations adopt the attitude that African Americans in the region are worth investing in.[125] Across the country, urban neighborhoods such as North St. Louis have become the new meccas for real estate developers. According to Black Enterprise magazine, financial experts predict that real estate once abandoned in urban areas will be a $100 billion market:[126]

If Firstar is sincere in its efforts to invest in North St. Louis, the results could be powerful. . . . St. Louis has a large and untapped pool of creative and capable black visionaries, but it has an equal share of naysayers and pessimists. Initiatives for lending institutions such as Firstar are long overdue.[127]

The President’s July 1999 tour raised national awareness that despite our booming economy, many places are left far behind. The first message of the tour was that areas visited are examples of potentially new economic markets that can be developed to continue to fuel this nation’s economic engine.[128] The other message of the tour was that our nation is not based on common race or religion, but on the simple premise of opportunity for all; not guaranteed outcomes, but an equal playing field of opportunity.[129]

As of April 2000, both the White House and the GOP have legislation pending regarding the future of poor rural and urban communities. The White House’s proposal is titled the New Markets Initiative, and the GOP bill is called the American Community Renewal Act.[130] The plans put forward are similar is some respects, including reliance on tax credits and breaks rather than government spending on new programs. The question is what to do about the issues on which the two disagree.[131] There is a suggestion on the table to give one set of communities benefits of the GOP plan and another group benefits from the White House model. Then, after seven to eight years, the benefits from each plan would expire, and Congress could determine which one worked better.[132]

Historically, Republicans and Democrats have approached poverty differently; however, the two current proposals are driven by the same basic philosophy: using tax incentives to attract businesses to neglected areas rather than funding new government programs to help those who live there. Reports in May 2000 stated both sides were optimistic that the final wrinkles would be worked out and an agreement reached in 2000.[133]


For more than 100 years—and particularly during the past 30 years—the U.S. Department of Agriculture has administered federally funded programs designed to improve almost every aspect of the lives of low-income farm and rural families. . . . As the group most depressed economically, most deprived educationally, and most oppressed socially, Negroes have been consistently denied access to many [agricultural] services, provided with inferior services when served, and segregated in federally financed agricultural programs whose very task was to raise their standard of living.[134]

When Virginia tobacco farmer John Boyd was denied a Federal farm operating loan in 1990, his eighth rejection in nine years came as no surprise. What shocked Boyd was the way a county [USDA] official threw his application in the trash right in front of him.[135] “I got my mule,” said Boyd, a farmer from Baskerville, Va., who is president of the National Black Farmers Association. “I need my 40 acres.”[136]

In recent years, the nation has begun to refocus its attention on the marked decrease in black-owned farms across the country.[137] However, the saga of discriminatory treatment and disturbing economic adversities that black farmers encounter is not a new story. Timothy Pigford, one such North Carolina farmer, related his experience with USDA inspectors in the 1950s:

[F]armers [from Willard, North Carolina] would load their tobacco and drive to the warehouse in Whiteville [North Carolina], 50 miles away. . . . White warehouse owners seemed fair, he recalls, but black farmers distrusted USDA inspectors, who graded tobacco before the auctioneer came. “We’d unload real early in the morning, then stand way off to the other side of the warehouse, or a white farmer would let us stand with him so that the graders would think we were hired hands. They’d downgrade our tobacco if they knew we were black.”[138]

In 1965, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (the Commission) noted that African Americans who live in southern rural areas experience greater economic hardships than their rural white neighbors.[139] Later, in The Decline of Black Farming in America, the Commission noted that in 1978 “the rate of [farm] land loss for blacks increased to 57.3 percent, 2½ times the rate of loss for whites.”[140] It was further recognized that African Americans operated only 57,271 farms in the United States.[141] Specifically, The Decline of Black Farming in America indicated that “blacks represent[ed] only 5.6 percent of the South’s farmers. About 85 percent of all black farmers are located in the South. The largest numbers are in Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Florida.”[142] A 1995 estimate of the number of black-owned farms in Mississippi revealed that there were approximately 2,500. These farms were primarily located in the Delta region in the northwest quarter of the state.[143] Similarly, this estimate indicated that the number of black-owned farms in this region also decreased almost 50 percent from 1982 to 1992.[144]

The rapid decline in the number of black-owned farms throughout the United States, particularly in the Mississippi Delta, continues to occur in spite of or due to intervening efforts from various sources. This chapter will provide an overview of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s contribution of providing economic support and technical assistance to the nation’s farmers and its civil rights enforcement obligations, as well as a discussion of various factors that contribute to the decreasing number of black-owned farms in the Mississippi Delta.

USDA’s Role in Civil Rights Enforcement and Economic and Technical Support

The passage of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964[145] provided that:

No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.[146]

The Commission has long held that federal civil rights agencies have the duty to “demolish the lingering barriers to full participation faced by minorities” in all federally funded programs.[147] Every federal agency is required to enforce nondiscriminatory practices for its financial assistance programs. This responsibility includes the “investigation and handling of complaints of discrimination and imposition of sanctions, as well as proactive obligations to ensure continuing compliance with Title VI and adequate understanding of its rights and responsibilities.”[148]

The USDA administers federal agricultural programs through the civil rights office or division of the following 14 agencies: the Agricultural Cooperative Service, the Agricultural Marketing Service, the Agricultural Research Service, the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Services, the Cooperative State Research Service, the Extension Service, the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, the Farmers Home Administration, the Food and Nutrition Service, the Forest Service, the Food Safety and Inspection Service, the Office of International Cooperation and Development, the Soil Conservation Service, and the Foreign Agricultural Service.[149] In order to operate their programs, each of these agencies is responsible for enforcing Title VI and other applicable civil rights laws.[150] An overall USDA civil rights office, the Office of Civil Rights Enforcement (OCRE), is charged with monitoring, coordinating, and evaluating each agency’s civil rights activities.[151] However, each of these USDA agencies determines its own procedures and instructions for implementing Title VI and other civil rights policies.[152]

One of these agencies, the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) serves an essential function of providing credit assistance to farmers and rural residents through a number of grant and loan programs.[153] FmHA administers to eligible participants federally assisted programs, such as farm ownership loans, private enterprise grants for improving and protecting farmland for conservation initiatives, and rural housing site loans for private or public nonprofit organizations for housing in rural areas.[154]

The Equal Opportunity Staff (EOS) in Washington, D.C., is FmHA’s civil rights and equal employment opportunity office. EOS is divided into two divisions: the Equal Employment Opportunity Branch and the Equal Opportunity Program Compliance Branch.[155] The Equal Employment Opportunity Branch is responsible for FmHA’s internal civil rights responsibilities of providing special emphasis programs and handling the agency’s internal Title VII complaints.[156] The Equal Opportunity Program Compliance Branch is responsible for external and internal civil rights enforcement of regulations by processing external program complaints, responding to OCRE’s requests, and monitoring FmHA’s state and local civil rights compliance program activities.[157]

Land Grant Programs

In 1862, the First Morrill Act[158] created a novel opportunity to provide federal funding to each state for public higher education.[159] Ultimately, the Morrill Act would be the catalyst for future agricultural initiatives on land grant public colleges that offered a useful curriculum for the working class.[160] The act provided that each state would receive 30,000 acres of land for each one of its senators or congressional representatives. After this property was sold, income from the sale would be used to support each state’s agricultural college or colleges.[161] According to the provisions in the act, a perpetual fund would grant:

at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts . . . in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.[162]

Despite the First Morrill Act’s effect of providing an opportunity to educate rural Americans on agricultural and scientific advancements, in the 17 segregationist states, whites primarily benefited from its existence.[163] Subsequently in the 1870s, only Mississippi, Virginia, and South Carolina distributed land grant funding to black colleges.[164]

Also during this time, land grant colleges began using agricultural experiment stations to examine and solve serious farming problems such as soil erosion and the lack of technical knowledge relating to fertilizers.[165] Accordingly, Congress enacted the Hatch Act[166] in 1887, to encourage the use of employing scientific approaches in solving agricultural problems.

This act made annual appropriations to the “college or colleges” established under the First Morrill Act, “or any of the supplements to the Act, in each state for the purpose of setting up agricultural experiment stations.” The Hatch Act recites that “in any State . . . in which two such colleges have been or may be so established the appropriation . . . made to such States shall be equally divided between such colleges unless the legislature of such State . . . shall otherwise direct.[167]

However, black farmers in the South often did not benefit from the passage of the Hatch Act. While the Alabama Legislature did designate state tax revenue for agricultural experiment stations at Tuskegee Institute and the Alabama State Normal School for Negroes in Montgomery, it is reported that neither of these institutions was ever identified to receive Hatch Act resources.[168]

The passage of the Agricultural College Act of 1890 (the Second Morrill Act)[169] in 1890 further acknowledged the reality of segregation in higher education, by providing that states with two systems of education equally divide their land grant funds between black and white institutions.[170] The Second Morrill Act mandated that “no money shall be paid for the support of a college where a distinction of race or color is made in the admission of students.”[171] Concomitantly, Congress defended the federal government’s support of the doctrine of “separate but equal” in public education.[172] Despite this constraint, the Second Morrill Act eventually created at least one black public college in each of the segregationist states.[173] However, these land grant colleges were often constrained by technical staff who had limited advanced training, minimal federal and local financial assistance, and little, if any, direct research support.[174] As a result, black farmers often received inferior agricultural support services.

Cooperative Extension Service

Dr. Bob Robinson, administrator of USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, testified before the House Agriculture Committee’s Forestry, Resource Conservation and Research Subcommittee on the importance of the Cooperative Extension Service (CES) to rural communities. He observed:

The value-added of the Cooperative Extension Service is its ability to design, develop, and deliver educational programs that meet the unique needs of local people as they adjust to change. In every State, the number and type of educational programs are determined largely by land grant university extension faculty working with stakeholders to solve their problems and take advantage of opportunities associated with scientific and technical advances and major changes in the agricultural sector.[175]

The benefits of CES have not continually been extended to all Americans who needed its resources. The history of USDA’s Cooperative Extension Service began as a result of the enactment of the Smith-Lever Act[176] in 1914.[177] The purpose of the act was to benefit individuals in rural areas who did not have immediate access to the agricultural advancements at the land grant colleges.[178] The act provided that:

In order to aid in diffusing among the people of the United States useful and practical information on subjects relating to agriculture, uses of solar energy with respect to agriculture, home economics, and rural energy, and to encourage the application of the same, there may be continued or inaugurated in connection with the college or colleges in each State, Territory, or possession, now receiving, or which may hereafter receive, the benefits of . . . [the First and Second Morrill Acts], agricultural extension work which shall be carried on in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture: Provided, that in any State, Territory, or possession in which two or more such colleges have been or hereafter may be established, the appropriations hereinafter made to such State, Territory, or possession shall be administered by such college or colleges as the legislature of such State, Territory or possession may direct.[179]

The act’s proviso allowed state legislatures to determine which land grant college should receive Smith-Lever funding. In the event that there were two or more eligible institutions, it served to further exclude African Americans in the South during this time.[180] Specifically, the legislatures of all 17 segregationist states allocated their white land grant colleges to receive Smith-Lever funds, which ultimately prevented black educational institutions and African American farmers from obtaining the full benefits of agricultural advancements that resulted from this program.[181]

The county extension office served as the link between land grant colleges and local citizens in need of its services. County extension offices were staffed by “farm or county agents” who administered and planned the extension program.[182] As southern extension services eventually employed African American county agents, they were most frequently assigned to black land grant colleges or to counties with 450 or more black farm families.[183] Black county agents were often hindered by lack of teaching materials and demonstration equipment, limited travel funds, inadequate office space, and support.[184] USDA estimates for 1925 to 1942 revealed that:

when the rural population of the segregationist states was approximately one-fourth black, annual extension expenditures for the benefit of the black population did not exceed seven percent of total expenditures. In practice, the extension program in the black community was usually limited to the services provided by black agents.[185]

Generally, the Federal Extension Service provides the Cooperative Extension Service’s administrative structure, which trains state extension workers and evaluates agricultural programs.[186] In 1965, the Commission documented that extension work at the state level continued to be provided in a segregated manner by separate staffs.[187] During that time,

[i]n an Alabama county the Negro [extension services] agent stated to Commission interviewers that Negroes did not attend demonstrations held on white farms and that there were beef cattle demonstrations for white farmers but none for Negroes. . . . In another Alabama county, specialists met with white farmers while the Negro agent reported that Negro farmers did not receive the services of specialists. Another Negro agent said he learned, through conversations with white livestock producers and newspapers, about a fertility testing program for bulls which was available to white farmers but not to Negroes.[188]

More recent reports relating to USDA’s administrative structure indicate that the Cooperative Extension Service was merged with the Cooperative State Research Service in 1994, in order to form the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) and to improve the accessibility of agricultural advancements to serve a more diverse audience.[189]

The mission of CSREES is to achieve significant and equitable improvements in domestic and global economic, environmental, and social conditions by advancing creative and integrated research, education, and extension programs in food, agricultural, and related sciences in partnership with both the public and private sectors. The partnership includes CES and 103 Land Grant institutions. This partnership links the education and research resources of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the land-grant universities with 3,150 county and administrative units throughout the country. CSREES is a Federal partner in a partnership that also includes the 59 State and Territorial Agricultural Experiment Stations; the 17 1890 land grant institutions, including Tuskegee University; the 63 Forestry Schools; the 27 Colleges of Veterinary Medicine . . . and the 29 Native American Institutions, which now have land-grant status.[190]

Farmers Home Administration

One of USDA’s agencies, the Farmers Home Administration, was intended to serve as a major financial lending source to limited-resource and low-income farmers.[191] In 1946, Congress combined the Farm Service Agency and the Emergency Crop and Feed Loan Programs into the newly created Farmers Home Administration, giving FmHA the authority to insure loans made by banks, other agencies, and private individuals, in addition to making direct government loans.[192]

During this same year, the Secretary of Agriculture was also authorized to issue production and subsistence loans, which replaced former emergency and rural rehabilitation loans to farmers who could not obtain credit.[193] Subsequent legislation gave FmHA the additional authority to provide loans for individual rural homeownership, rental home construction, home repairs, water and waste disposal systems, and community facilities.[194] In fiscal year 1983, a USDA Task Force on Black Farm Ownership prompted the creation of the Small Farmer Training and Technical Assistance Program (SFTTAP).[195] The primary objective of this program was to assist minority farmers by creating cooperative agreements between FmHA and historically black colleges.[196] Specifically, “the program’s technical assistance plan consisted of demonstrations of farming techniques, farm management practices, development of farm plans, and assistance to farmers with obtaining loans.”[197]

The Outreach and Assistance Grants for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program is another component of the SFTTAP.[198] The Outreach and Assistance Grants Program encouraged the creation of cooperative agreements with the 1890 and 1862 Land Grant Institutions, Native American community colleges, various community organizations, and Hispanic Servicing Institutions to support economically disadvantaged farmers.[199]

Lending Difficulties and Loan Debt

One extension program that serves SFTTAP participants is located at Alcorn State University in Lorman, Mississippi. According to Dr. Jesse Harness, associate extension administrator and coordinator of civil rights and equal employment opportunity at Alcorn University, Alcorn’s program assists borrowers in acquiring farm loans, improving their cash flow to facilitate loan repayment, improving their management skills, and diversifying their crops.[200] The program targets residents of Bolivar, Washington, Humphreys, Holmes, and Yazoo Counties in Mississippi.[201] Dr. Harness indicated that most SFTTAP participants are black, since most white farmers in the Delta operate larger farms. Approximately 250 clients are helped on a daily basis through Alcorn’s program.[202]

Dr. Harness described some of the difficulties that black farmers face in obtaining loans and venture capital. He explained that the most significant problem that black farmers face is the late approval of their loan applications, which inhibits their ability to plant crops and harvest them in a timely fashion in order to compete with area farmers.[203] Another difficulty is the amount of debt that African American farmers often incur when attempting to secure financial support. Dr. Harness remarked that as a result of Alcorn’s program, in 1995 only 11 percent of its clients had farm debt, as compared with 98 percent in 1989.[204] While these participants may be more successful in reducing their farm debt, other farmers are not as fortunate. For example, Lloyd Shaffer, a farmer in Bentonia, Mississippi, described his son’s experiences with a local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office when starting his first farm:

He requested machinery . . . to do his job with, and do a well-done job, but he did not receive that. He had to depend on other farmers in order to operate his land, [and] do his operation. And it kind of crippled him in a way. He was late getting financed on one of his crops, which was the soybean. And when he did get [the loan], he didn’t have enough money to complete his job, to . . . do a good farm practice. But he’s stuck now with a debt that he’s going to have to carry for 15 years. They did re-amortize his debt for 15 years, but if he had . . . the proper equipment from the beginning . . . he could of went and finished his job, got his seeds in the ground, harvested his crop, and been able to adjust his debt at the end of the year, more so than what he did. . . .[205]

These problems may also be due to the impact of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (1996 FAIR Act).[206] Several provisions of this act altered the FSA loan process. For example, farmers who had been previously eligible for FSA’s debt forgiveness program were no longer qualified for FSA loans.[207] Secondly, those farmers who were delinquent on direct or guaranteed farm loans would not be eligible for FSA direct operating loans.[208] Those individuals with restructured loans through a USDA debt reduction program would be exempt from this provision and could apply for operating loans.[209] In addition, to qualify for FSA Emergency Loans, which are issued as a result of natural disasters, borrowers cannot be delinquent on any direct or guaranteed FSA loan.[210] Finally, the 1996 FAIR Act eliminated a provision, the farmland leaseback-buyback program, which “offered farmers who had lost their farmland to FSA through foreclosure, bankruptcy, or voluntary conveyance a chance to reacquire that land.”[211]

African American farmers also contend that other hindrances prevent them from obtaining equitable farm financing. Although these farmers may have 90 percent federally guaranteed loans, local banks are reluctant to issue funds to them.[212] Banking requirements that demand excessive amounts of collateral only serve to support farmers’ reluctance to use local banks’ services.[213] Dr. Harness referred to a catfish cooperative in Mound Bayou, Bolivar County, Mississippi, that was initiated by a group of black farmers. They experienced difficulties obtaining financing to support their processing facility. In addition, Dr. Harness indicated that black farmers in Bolivar County have frequently reported problems relating to obtaining services from federal agencies in that county. They attributed these difficulties to racial discrimination.[214]

Similarly, R.C. Howard, a farmer from Tchula, Mississippi, who has received assistance from Alcorn University, informed a Commission staff attorney of his experience with an FmHA local office. His loan application remained on an FmHA supervisor’s desk for 30 days before he was advised that additional information was required to process the request.[215] Mr. Howard supplied this information, and he applied again in January of 1993 for a loan. He continually checked on its status by telephoning and sending letters to the Secretary of Agriculture and a state administrator. In July of 1993, he learned that his loan was denied. Mr. Howard appealed the determination, and the appeals officer later reversed this judgment. Simultaneously, he was advised to contact the FmHA supervisor, who informed him that his application did not include a cash flow amount.[216] After this experience, Mr. Howard wondered why the supervisor allowed his application to languish on his desk for six months.

Although FSA is characterized as the “lender of last resort” for all small farmers, African American farmers contend they are frequently the recipients of financial leftovers. Other reports have revealed that these farmers obtain a smaller share of agricultural benefits than their white counterparts, and that blacks as well as other individuals with small farms have difficulty economically competing with large farming operations.[217] While poverty and unemployment continue to be serious concerns for the Mississippi Delta, “the government has foreclosed on so much land in Bolivar County, [Mississippi] . . . that it is now one of the biggest land owners, its field mostly filled with weeds and fallow.”[218]

Factors Contributing to the Lack of Black-Owned Farms

In addition to difficulties in obtaining farm loans, other factors contribute to the alarming decrease in the number of black-owned farms in the Mississippi Delta region. One cause is foreclosure on farm property. Other factors stem from allegations of discriminatory treatment based on race in the manner in which the USDA administers its farm programs. In 1995, several minority farmers filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against the USDA. The plaintiffs in this case, Williams v. Glickman,[219] requested that their case be certified as a class action lawsuit, and they alleged that the USDA had discriminated against them based on their race.[220] The court ultimately denied the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification and determined that they did not meet the class certification requirements and that their proposed class definition was overly broad.[221]

Subsequently, a group of black farmers also filed suit against the USDA.[222] The lead plaintiff in this case was Timothy Pigford, a North Carolina farmer.[223] This suit alleged that the Secretary of Agriculture and his predecessors administered programs through the Farm Service Agency (formerly, the Farmers’ Home Administration), which “developed and maintained a pattern of racial discrimination.” Secondly, the plaintiffs contended that the federal government denied their farm loan applications and failed to provide appropriate technical assistance, which ultimately resulted in a loss of their livelihoods.[224] In addition, they asserted the USDA completely failed to process discrimination complaints, when its Office of Civil Rights Enforcement and Adjudication (OCREA) was dismantled in 1983. “[F]armers who filed complaints of discrimination never received a response, or if they did receive a response, it was a cursory denial of relief. In some cases, the plaintiffs allege that OCREA simply threw discrimination complaints in the trash without ever responding to or investigating them.”[225]

In response, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) contended that the farmers’ previous complaints filed against the USDA were too ancient to be currently valid, therefore barring their lawsuit because of a statute of limitations provision.[226] The DOJ also indicated that the individual plaintiffs alleged an excessive number of issues to proceed with their cases at one time.[227] Congress subsequently voted to waive the statute of limitations requirement to allow the farmers to seek redress against the USDA for old race discrimination allegations.[228] The Congressional Black Caucus, under the leadership of Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), was a primary proponent of the statute of limitations waiver provision. The caucus declared the House-passed waiver provision to be “the first part of a major victory to close this ugly chapter of discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture against black farmers, who have endured decades of discrimination.”[229] U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman then certified this case, Pigford v. Glickman, as a class action lawsuit in October 1998. As a result, the case against the USDA would go forward with the black farmers represented as a single group of plaintiffs.[230]

The next month the USDA offered the Pigford plaintiffs a settlement of their case.[231] Generally, the proposed settlement would identify the plaintiffs into two separate groups:

One class would be those farmers who have complained of discrimination involving lending and debt. [J.L.] Chesnutt, [one of the attorneys representing 600 black Georgia farmers,] said the government proposes to write off debts, replace or provide comparable land lost in a package that could average $200,000 per farmer. In the other category, in which USDA officials contest the claims, a one-day binding arbitration is proposed that could result in settlements that may reach $1 million or more. . . .[232]

In January 1999, attorneys for both sides entered into a five-year consent decree. On April 14, 1999, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman gave final approval to the settlement. This settlement was denounced by a host of farmers, civil rights leaders, and others as inadequate.[233] Under the framework of the settlement, claimants had a choice of one of two “tracks” for processing their claims. Under Track A, a claimant receives a blanket payment of $50,000, plus additional relief in the form of forgiveness of their debt on loans affected by discriminatory conduct, and some offset of tax liability if they provide written “substantial evidence” of credit discrimination. Most claimants—19,226 as of April 2000—have chosen Track A.[234] Farmers with more evidence of discrimination could seek larger damages by opting for Track B. As of April 2000, 142 claimants have chosen Track B, which has a higher standard of proof—preponderance of the evidence—than Track A, but provides for a tailored settlement based on individual circumstances, including a cash payment equal to actual damages and forgiveness of outstanding USDA loans affected by discriminatory conduct.[235] Additionally, claimants were provided the opportunity to “opt out” of the class action suit between April 14, 1999, and August 12, 1999. Two hundred thirty-three claimants chose to opt out and continue individual cases in the administrative process or in court. As of April 2000, approximately 30 claimants have chosen to pursue discrimination cases against the USDA.[236]

There have been problems with the distribution of settlement funds. However, the first $50,000 checks were mailed in November 1999. Poorman Douglas, the firm contracted to process settlement claims, has mailed checks from settlement moneys to 2,412 claimants as of December 1999.[237] Additionally, Representative Jay Dickey (R-AR) and Representative J.C. Watts (R-OK) have proposed a resolution urging the government to speed up payment of money it owes to black farmers.[238] The 38-member Congressional Black Caucus met May 3, 2000, in Washington, D.C., to consider whether or not to support the nonbinding bill. The meeting was hosted by Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS) who stated the bill was a “feel-good piece of legislation without any substance.” Members of the caucus opted to denounce the resolution. Representative Dickey defended his bill, stating, “Though it would have no force of law, it would focus national attention on the issue.”[239]

The allegations in the Pigford class action lawsuit reflect similar complaints by other black farmers. For example, Ben Burkett, a farmer in the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives informed a Commission staff attorney that he receives “12–15 complaints a year from black farmers who go to the marketplace in Memphis and get a lesser grade on their goods [than what white farmers receive].”[240] Secondly, an investigation of a USDA loan awarded to Welchel Long of Dewey Rose, Georgia, revealed that he received an 18 percent interest rate for a farming loan, while white farmers near his property were charged interest rates as low as 3 percent.[241] Mr. Long contended loan officials asserted he managed his farm inadequately, and failed to recognize his experience of teaching agriculture for 30 years at Tuskegee University in Alabama.[242]

Similarly, Willie Crute of Baskerville, Virginia, applied for a $119,000 USDA loan to finance a new poultry house, in order to take advantage of an offer to farmers by Perdue Farms to raise chickens.[243] Mr. Crute’s loan was granted a year later. The delay caused him to forfeit the farming opportunity. USDA investigators subsequently revealed that:

white farmers in [Mr. Crute’s] county typically waited 84 days for loan decisions, while black farmers had to wait an average of 222 days. Investigators also found that 84% of the white applicants had their loan applications approved, while only 56% of the black applicants were granted loans.[244]

As a result of the USDA’s findings of discrimination in the FSA’s lending practices and administration of technical assistance to black farmers, Secretary Dan Glickman announced in December 1996 that the USDA would temporarily stop all farm foreclosures.[245] The purpose for this order was to determine how discrimination contributed to each farmer’s financial difficulties.[246]

Moreover, the Secretary later announced that he and USDA’s Civil Rights Action Team (CRAT) would attend a series of 13 “listening sessions” across the country, to receive the public’s views on alleged USDA civil rights violations.[247] CRAT was mandated to review USDA’s policies and recommend solutions to the Department’s institutional barriers that affected service delivery.[248] It was headed by Pearlie S. Reed, USDA’s acting assistant secretary for administration and associate chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.[249] Listening session forum locations near or in the Delta region included Albany, Georgia; New Orleans, Louisiana; Memphis, Tennessee; Halifax, North Carolina; and Belzoni, Mississippi.[250] During the Memphis and Halifax sessions, farmers informed federal officials of the types of difficulties they have encountered with the USDA, such as the inability to obtain bank loans.[251] Several other black and small-scale white farmers indicated that USDA officials were discourteous and denied their loans at will.[252] Another African American farmer from Halifax, North Carolina, informed the audience how his son had been denied a farm loan:

[The] son received a letter from FmHA which said, “You lack sufficient training and experience and education to be successful in farming to assure reasonable re-payment for the loan requested.” His son, who grew up on a 300-acre family farm, was a graduate of A&T State University with a major in agricultural education. Since his son had inherited land and equipment from his grandfather, all he needed was operating money. This [USDA] speaker mentioned an FmHA pamphlet for young farmers which says “You’re interested in being a young farmer, then FmHA wants to help.” . . . Where is the help?[253]

At the conclusion of the Department’s listening sessions, Secretary Glickman maintained that efforts to reform the USDA will ensure equitable treatment for everyone.[254] CRAT then issued a report in February 1997 with 92 recommendations and corresponding action plans. During this time, Secretary Glickman specified that the USDA would focus most of its attention on strengthening its accountability, as well as requesting legislative authority to change all nonfederal Farm Service Agency county positions to federal status.[255] Later, Representative Eva Clayton (D-NC) introduced a bill to transfer the employment status of county FSA employees to a federal civil service level.[256] Secretary Glickman also referred to the outcome of an Office of Inspector General (OIG) report on discrimination allegations in USDA’s farm loan program: “The OIG found that ‘staffing problems, obsolete procedures, and little direction from management’ resulted in a ‘climate of disorder’ within the civil rights staffs at the Farm Services Agency and at the departmental level.”[257]

Allegations of Discrimination at Local USDA Farm Offices

In March 1997, the Commission received testimony and evidence from several African American farmers who testified about discriminatory treatment at local farm offices. Ben Burkett, a member of the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, testified about how black farmers are often discouraged to apply for loans and to grow certain crops:

Yes, we have had farmers go into the local office and we [the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives] tell them in our training session that [the local office] cannot refuse to give you an application . . . package. . . . But when they go in and the supervisor talks to them and they say well, you just can’t make no money growing 150 acres of cotton, you know, there . . . ain’t no need of you going through the [loan application] process, because you are going to be turned down anyway, [it] just dishearten[s] the farmer. And I tell them that if you know the law and your rights, they cannot refuse you an application.[258]

Further, Mr. Burkett also testified about his experience with a local county office official who rejected his farm plan application, since it was prepared with the assistance of Alcorn University’s technical assistance program.[259]

African American farmers also contend that there is a lack of racially diverse staff in local farm offices. The CRAT report confirmed this disparity does indeed exist (see table 1.12).

TABLE 1.12
FSA County Committee Members by Race, Sex, and Ethnicity, 1996: Southeast Region of the United States  










Asian American/Pacific Islander



American Indian/Alaskan Native



Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Civil Rights Action Team, Civil Rights at the United States Department of Agriculture, February 1997, p. 19.

Similarly, John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, informed the Commission that local county offices primarily do not reflect minority participation.[260] Regarding data he obtained from a Mississippi state office, Mr. Boyd stated:

Out of 80 [agricultural] committees [in Mississippi’s 82 counties, there are] only two with elected minority participation in the whole state of Mississippi. Out of the 80, 78 have [an] appointed minority advisor, which is a position that doesn’t carry a vote. And we advocate that there’s no need for being there, you know.[261] 

Moreover, Mr. Boyd emphasized:

That committee in the county is probably the most powerful committee when you get down to agriculture. They set the program that’s going to come in that county; they do the hiring for that local office. There’s five employees in there. They determine who is going to be hired, [and] if [land is going] to be declared a disaster in that area. . . . That county committee [has] to say this county should be declared a disaster. . . . So when a farmer come[s] in there and applies there, . . . say he want[s] to stop erosion on his farm, this committee has to certify first of all that he’s an eligible producer in that county. Then [the committee has] to certify as to [whether] his [farm] is feasible.[262]

Other sources have also acknowledged the impact of the lack of a diverse staff at many FSA county offices. According to the CRAT report, the lack of diversity at local FSA offices has an adverse affect on agriculture program delivery. “Underrepresentation of minorities on county committees and on county staffs means minority and female producers hear less about programs and have a more difficult time participating in USDA programs because they lack specific information on available services.”[263] However, Ben Burkett, a member of the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, recommended one possible solution to this problem, which would be to construct a local five-member committee.[264] He explained that three of the members could be elected from the general farming community, and two could be appointed by the Secretary of the USDA or the state director.[265]

Lack of Enforcement of Civil Rights Laws

The trend of lack of enforcement of civil rights laws in USDA’s programs continues even after intervention by USDA’s Civil Rights Action Team. In 1982, the director of FmHA’s Equal Opportunity Staff admitted his office was “in no position to enforce compliance with civil rights laws.”[266] Eight years later, the acting director of USDA’s Office of Advocacy and Enterprise confirmed in writing that FSA was “frequently in noncompliance with civil rights compliance at the local level.”[267]

Later in 1995, the GAO reviewed USDA’s effectiveness in enforcing civil rights regulations. It concluded that at the USDA, there are “no formal mechanisms to hold . . . agency heads accountable for the success of their agencies’ EEO [equal employment opportunity]/affirmative employment programs.”[268] In 1997, Civil Rights Action Team findings indicated that senior USDA managers do not assist in preparing Affirmative Employment Programs (AEPs). AEPs serve to eliminate the underrepresentation of women and people of color in an agency’s work force.[269] Furthermore, GAO revealed that “officials with the authority to make personnel decisions regarding employment, job assignments, training, promotions, and terminations at the USDA and the other agencies were rarely involved in the process of identifying barriers and actions to improve the representation of women and people of color in their agencies.”[270]

The CRAT report also indicated that the problem of lack of enforcement of civil rights laws exists from senior management levels down through local USDA agencies. The assistant secretary for administration (ASA) is primarily responsible for ensuring that all of USDA’s agencies comply with these regulations.[271] However, the report noted:

[T]he ASA is not involved in the performance appraisal process for the agency heads and senior executives (other than those in Departmental Administration) whose actions—at least on civil rights—the office ostensibly oversees . . . Accountability at the highest levels should cascade down through agencies’ organizational structures, where field supervisors provide direct service to the public. However, without measurable goals, agencies have no way of effectively assessing whether or not they are making progress.[272]

Backlog of Complaints Filed Against the USDA

The significant backlog of unresolved discrimination complaints against the USDA is an ongoing reality for black farmers, who find themselves without appropriate economic and technical assistance from the Department. Moreover, Secretary Glickman has conceded that the Department has discriminated against black farmers in the past and in recent times.[273] This treatment is illustrated in the case of Calvin Brown: Mr. Brown farmed tobacco on land in Brunswick County, Virginia, that was previously owned by his father.[274] In 1984, Charlie Featherstone, a white supervisor at the Brunswick County FmHA office allegedly required Mr. Brown to keep his loan in a restricted account that needed the FmHA’s supervisor’s signature for any banking withdrawals.[275] When Mr. Brown attempted to obtain his funds to rent a barn to dry his crop, Mr. Featherstone could not be located in person or by telephone.[276] The tobacco crop eventually was ruined, and Mr. Brown was later unable to obtain further loans from the FmHA office. As a result, Mr. Brown filed a discrimination complaint against the USDA in 1984. In 1998, Mr. Brown received an initial response from the Department, which indicated that its Office of Civil Rights was still processing his complaint.[277]

Moreover, John Boyd testified at the March 1997 Commission hearing about the number of complaints that have yet to be documented by USDA officials and resolved:

[There is] a backlog of complaints that I was told was in the neighborhood of 2,000, and when I had a chance to review the inspector general’s report, there was only 241 complaints listed there. There are some farmers in here today that I know have affirmative findings of discrimination. Mr. Eddie Ross from Mississippi. His name is not on this surplus list for settlement or to be even addressed. I mean, what’s going to happen to all these farmers that already lost their farms through the hands of discrimination at the Department of Agriculture?[278]

Later, USDA’s Inspector General Roger Viadero released a report in October 1998 which revealed that the Department’s civil rights office continues to make little progress in resolving these complaints.[279] This investigation indicated that as of September 1998, there were 616 unresolved cases. These complaints were organized in “case files too slovenly to ensure the availability of critical documents.”[280] In addition, Inspector General Viadero reported that many of the civil rights adjudicators, who were in charge of serious cases, were student interns and staff members with little or no training.[281] Consequently, the inspector general recommended removing the civil rights jurisdiction from the Department’s Office of Civil Rights, employing an outside task force to review and resolve these cases, and creating a position of assistant secretary of civil rights.[282]

Inefficiencies in USDA’s Complaint Process

The Civil Rights Action Team provided a detailed account of USDA’s appeals process for customers who file a complaint:

When USDA denies a loan, payment, or any other benefit, the customer almost always has appeal rights. Agency appeals processes vary, typically, an appeal goes to a higher level agency official in the county, State, or region, and then to the agency’s national office or to the Department. Until 1995, FmHA and . . . FSA appeals processes were handled entirely within the agency. If the customer did not agree with the national decision, the only appeal was to the courts. . . . [M]any farmers, especially small farmers, who have managed to appeal their cases to FSA charge that even when decisions are overturned, local offices often do not honor the decision. They claim that decisions favoring farmers are simply “not enforced.” Farmers also mentioned the backlog and length of time needed to appeal, and the lack of timely communication to inform them of the status of their cases.[283]

Similarly, evidence suggests that a number of farmers are dissatisfied with the Department’s appeals process to rulings on farm loans and complaints of discrimination. Ben Burkett’s view also reflected this sentiment:

When . . . [the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives] go[es] to hearings with farmers on loan application[s] or discrimination, we follow procedure. We go through the hearing process. We go through the appeal hearing process and . . . when we finish the process, still that farmer does not receive adequate compensation for his effort.[284]

Lloyd Shaffer, a Bentonia, Mississippi, farmer maintained that a reason for the lack of faith in USDA’s complaint procedures is probably due to the Department’s current policy.[285] Specifically, he explained that an individual initially files a complaint with local county authorities. Difficulties arise because these local committees are composed of those farmers who own large farms and receive the guaranteed loans. In Yazoo County, Mississippi, county committee members are elected by proxy vote, and most county boards continue to have a majority of white members.[286]

Inadequate Outreach and Technical Training

Many authorities have documented the importance of farmers having access to available technical training and assistance in order to be aware of new agricultural advancements. This access to information and assistance is particularly critical for African American and other small farmers, who have historically been denied an equitable level of federal support.[287] During the Belzoni, Mississippi, USDA listening session, speakers commented that there were funding discrepancies among the various land grant institutions that provide needed technical assistance to area farmers. They asserted that financial support should be assigned in proportion to the number of minority farmers in Mississippi.[288] In addition, the CRAT report also found that people of color and small farmers are usually not represented on research and education advisory boards. It suggested that there would probably be more participation from people of color if these committees were more diverse.[289] Moreover, Ben Burkett, a witness at the Commission’s Mississippi hearing, contended county FSA offices provide limited technical assistance to area minority farmers. According to Mr. Burkett, FSA office personnel fail to communicate effectively with black farmers and often make recommendations to black small farm owners that are detrimental to their financial interests, e.g., recommending the farmers rent rather than purchase machinery. Mr. Burkett recommended the USDA initiate a national outreach effort to educate these consumers.[290]


A variety of factors have been attributed to the significant loss of black-owned farmland in the Mississippi Delta. One of these contributors, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, plays a primary role in offering technical and economic support to the nation’s farmers. Specifically, USDA’s Office for Civil Rights Enforcement monitors the Department’s civil rights activities and programs, and farming credit assistance is offered through USDA’s Farmers Home Administration/Farm Service Agency. Historically, rural development initiatives originated from university-based land grant and cooperative extension programs. They were the result of the First and Second Morrill Acts in the 1800s and the 1914 Smith-Lever Act, which provided southern farmers with their initial opportunity to learn current agricultural advancements through county USDA offices. This information often enhanced farmers’ agricultural yield and farm management skills.

In contrast, African American farmers often did not have equal access to these opportunities, which diminished their likelihood of obtaining farm loans, equipment, and technical expertise in a timely fashion. Moreover, they also faced overt discriminatory actions in lending and agricultural support services that led to the demise of black-owned farms. These barriers continue today.

Without appropriate technical assistance and financial support, African American farmers in the Mississippi Delta often experience lending difficulties and significant loan debt. More recently, legislative developments, such as the 1996 FAIR Act, also affect black farmers’ ability to maintain their farms successfully by eliminating leaseback-buyback options and restricting debt forgiveness eligibility and FSA direct operating and emergency loans. However, one intervention initiative, Alcorn University’s cooperative extension program, is successful in assisting minority and small farmers in various Mississippi counties in improving their cash flow, diversifying their crops, and acquiring farm loans.

Subsequent legal action in the Williams v. Glickman case and Pigford v. Glickman class action suit, as well as criticisms voiced in nationwide “listening sessions,” emphasized the need for the USDA to address and resolve black farmers’ and African American USDA staff members’ past and current complaints of discriminatory treatment from USDA officials. In response, the USDA offered the Pigford class action plaintiffs a settlement and ultimately acknowledged that the Department has subjected black and other minority farmers to unfair practices. The Department has also issued a number of findings and recommendations to ensure impartial services for everyone. Despite these efforts, black farmers in the Mississippi Delta still await equitable treatment, appropriate technical assistance, and fair lending practices from the USDA.

[1] Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission, The Delta Initiatives: Realizing the Dream . . . Fulfilling the Potential, May 14, 1990, p. 165 (hereafter cited as LMDDC Report).

[2] Christina Schwarz and Benjamin Schwarz, “Mississippi Monte Carlo; Gambling Industry in Tunica County,The Atlantic Monthly, January 1996, p. 67 (hereafter cited as Schwarz, Gambling Industry”).

[3] Jack E. White, “The Poorest Place in America,” Time, Aug. 15, 1994, p. 35.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] See Pub. L. No. 100-460.

[7] LMDDC Report, p. 6.

[8] Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Rural Economic Development: A Profile of Eight Rural Areas Located in the Lower Mississippi Delta Region, February 1995, p. 4 (hereafter cited as Federal Reserve Report).

[9] “Few would disagree with Herbert Gans, who said that ‘the best remedy for poverty is a large supply of jobs.’ Herbert J. Gans, The Urban Villagers: Group and Class in the Life of Italian-Americans (New York: The Free Press, 1982), p. 312, as cited in Leif Jensen, “Employment Hardship and Rural Minorities: Theory, Research, and Policy; Special Issue: Blacks in Rural America,” The Review of Black Political Economy, vol. 22, no. 4 (Mar. 22, 1994), p. 125. See also Dick Kirschten, “The Delta Looks Up,The National Journal, vol. 22, no. 40 (Oct. 6, 1990) p. 2382, in which the mayor of Jonestown, MS, a Delta town, states that the town’s “biggest problem is the lack of jobs.”

[10] LMDDC Report, p. 165; Pat Hanna Kuehl, “Destination: Mississippi,” The Los Angeles Times, Nov. 5, 1995, p. L10.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Wilbur Hawkins, testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, hearing, Greenville, MS, Mar. 6–8, 1997, transcript, pp. 361–62 (hereafter cited as Hearing Transcript).

[13] Becky Gillette, “Land of Cotton and Catfish Seeking Healthy Diversity From Other Types of Development,” Mississippi Business Journal, vol. 20, no. 20 (May 18, 1998), p. 1 (hereafter cited as Gillette, “Diversity From Other Types of Development” ).

[14] Hawkins Testimony, Hearing Transcript, pp. 361–62. See also James C. Cobb, The Most Southern Place on Earth: The Mississippi Delta and the Roots of Southern Identity (Oxford University Press,1992), pp. 330–32; and Eric Bates, “The Kill Line,” Southern Exposure, vol. 19, no. 3 (Fall 1991), p. 23, as cited in Jacqueline Jones, “The Late Twentieth-Century War On the Poor: A View From Distressed Communities Throughout the Nation,” Boston College Third World Law Journal, vol. 16 (Winter 1996), p. 6. “In the Mississippi Delta . . . in some cases, even new industries hold little promise in the long run for these families. For example, in Indianola [Mississippi], the catfish industry depends on a work force that is largely black, female, and poor. However, not only do the fish processing jobs pay little, they are also vulnerable to larger market forces. In 1990, a strike of 900 workers at the Delta Pride plant resulted in modest wage increases and better working conditions, but soon after, the whole industry began to institute cutbacks to counter the effects of a saturated market. This case illustrates the thread of continuity linking a slave past to a postindustrial present; where black women once chopped and picked cotton for white landowners, they now stand for hours and each rip and gut as many as 20,000 fish a day. Where they once suffered from back-breaking stoop labor, they now suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, a crippling hand disease.” Ibid.

[15] Ronald A. Hudson Testimony, Hearing Transcript, pp. 538–43.

[16] Ibid.

[17] John Walker Testimony, Hearing Transcript, pp. 518–20.

[18] The Clarion-Ledger, Nov. 28, 1995, p. 3B.

[19] According to Mick Lura, chief of staff of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, there were 30 licensees as of Sept. 3, 1999. In February 1999, a new casino, the Beaurivage, opened in Biloxi, MS. In July 1999, a new casino, the Isle of Capri, opened in Tunica, MS. Two casinos in Greenville, MS, the Las Vegas Club and the Jubilee were consolidated in July 1999 (Mick Lura, letter to Mississippi Delta project team leader Maxine G. Sharpe, Sept. 3, 1999, and telephone conversation between Mick Lura and Maxine G. Sharpe on Sept. 9, 1999).

[20] Paul A. Harvey, letter to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, June 20, 1997 (hereafter cited as Harvey Letter).

[21] Paul A. Harvey Testimony, Hearing Transcript, pp. 528–30.

[22] Marianne T. Hill, Center for Policy Research and Planning, Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, Labor Market Effects of Gaming in Mississippi, CPRP Working Paper: 9402 (July 1994), p. 2.

[23] Ibid., p. 1.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Harvey Testimony, Hearing Transcript, p. 549.

[26] The Employer Information EEO-1 survey is conducted annually pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-8(c) (LEXIS through 2000 Sess.) and 29 C.F.R. §§ 1602.7–1602.14 (2000).

[27] Mississippi Gaming Commission Property Data, “Quarterly Survey Information: July 1, 2000–September 30, 2000,” <http://www.msgaming.com/main-reports.html>.

[28] The four counties were Hancock, Harrison, Tunica, and Warren.

[29] Mississippi Employment Security Commission, “Mississippi Labor Market Information for Affirmative Action Programs,” March 2000, <http://www.mesc.state.ms.us/lmi/files/aaction/pdf/aaction300.pdf>.

[30] Patrick Ronald Edwards, acting chief, Research and Technical Information Branch, Program Research and Surveys Division, Office of Research, Information and Planning, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, advance copy of the 1999 EEO-1 aggregate report as a facsimile to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Nov. 15, 2000, p. 5 (hereafter cited as Edwards Facsimile).

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Indian-owned casinos are not required under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-8(c) to report to the EEOC; therefore, employment information on the Indian-owned casino(s) in Mississippi is not included.

[36] Edwards Facsimile, p. 5.

[37] Harvey Letter.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Derrick Crawford Testimony, Hearing Transcript, p. 556; Lee Ragland, “Tunica’s Casinos Outrunning the Pack,The Clarion-Ledger, Oct. 2, 1995, p. A1.

[41] Ragland, “Tunica’s Casinos Outrunning the Pack, p. A1.

[42] Sara Collins and Warren Cohen, “How the States Stack Up,” US News & World Report, Nov. 8, 1993, p. 66.

[43] Bureau of the Census, 1990 Census of Population, Social and Economic Characteristics, Mississippi, p. 383, table 155.

[44] Ibid., p. 401, table 156.

[45] Walker Testimony, Hearing Transcript, pp. 567–68. See also Andrea Stone, “New Dawn in Mississippi Delta,” USA Today, May 30, 1997, p. 6. Robert Hall, a high school teacher in Tunica, MS, reported that his students “fall asleep in class after working the overnight shift[s] at minimum-wage casino job[s].” Ibid.

[46] Walker Testimony, Hearing Transcript, p. 567.

[47] Crawford Testimony, Hearing Transcript, pp. 548, 552.

[48] Schwarz, Gambling Industry,” statement attributed to Witness Crawford. See also John Kifner, “An Oasis of Casinos Lifts a Poor Mississippi County,The New York Times, Oct. 4, 1996, pp. A1, A20, “a state so socially conservative that it was the last to repeal prohibition, in 1966.”

[49] Becky Gillette, “ ‘Mississippi Miracle’ Vies With Addiction Tales,” Mississippi Business Journal, Sept. 21, 1998, p. 1.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Kifner, An Oasis of Casinos Lifts a Poor Mississippi County,” p. A20. Schwarz, Gambling Industry.”

[52] Gillette, “Diversity From Other Types of Development.”

[53] Ibid.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ibid.

[57] “Slater Predicts New Terminal Will Bring Thousands of Jobs to Delta,” The Associated Press, Aug. 3, 1998.

[58] See generally Jacquelyn W. McCray, project director, “Housing Problems and Solutions in the Lower Mississippi Delta,Report to the Lower Mississippi Delta Commission, Contract No. DC-00111, Project No. IS:A:7 (University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, 1990).

[59] Ibid., pp. 6–7.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Occupants who spend more than 30 percent of their income for housing are “cost burdened”; see generally McCray, “Housing Problems and Solutions.”

[62] Ibid.

[63] Federal Reserve Report, p. 4.

[64] Ibid., p. 9.

[65] Ibid., p. 10.

[66] Schwarz, Gambling Industry.”

[67] Federal Reserve Report.

[68] Schwarz, Gambling Industry.”

[69] Rex Nelson, “Mississippi Dreaming: New Arkansas Business Group Looks to Mississippi Delta Council as Model,Arkansas Business, Mar. 11, 1991, p. 22.

[70] Ibid.

[71] Ibid.

[72] Ibid.

[73] Ibid.

[74] Ibid.

[75] Ronald A. Hudson Testimony, Hearing Transcript, pp. 493–94.

[76] Ibid., pp. 493–95.

[77] Ibid., p. 494.

[78] Ibid., p. 495.

[79] Ibid., pp. 495–96.

[80] George Harris, executive director, Montgomery County (MS) Economic Council, telephone interview, June 26, 1996.

[81] Ibid.

[82] Ibid.

[83] Ronald A. Hudson, executive director, Clarksdale-Coahoma County (MS) Chamber of Commerce, telephone interview, June 27, 1996.

[84] Michael Neal, president and chief executive officer, Monroe (LA) Chamber of Commerce, telephone interview, July 23, 1996.

[85] Ibid.

[86] Ibid.

[87] The black female labor union leader, Eva Diane Wilson, is no longer the chair of the program. Each chair serves a one-year term. Ms. Wilson was chair for the 1996 calendar year. The current chair is John Anderson, an African American male, who is the community affairs director for the city of Monroe, Louisiana. The next chair, Linada Holyfield, assistant administrator of St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe, assumes office in January 2000. Ms. Holyfield is a white female. Michael Neal, telephone interview, Sept. 8, 1999.

[88] Gerald P. Fraiser, economic development coordinator, Yazoo (MS) County Chamber of Commerce, telephone interview, June 28, 1996.

[89] Ibid.

[90] Tommy Hart, executive director, Washington County (MS) Industrial Foundation, telephone interview, June 21, 1996.

[91] Glenn Bell, executive director, Southeast Arkansas Economic Development District, telephone interview, July 2, 1996.

[92] Ibid.

[93] Tommy Davis, executive director, East Central Arkansas Economic Development Corp., telephone interview, June 20, 1996 (hereafter cited as Davis Interview).

[94] Ibid.

[95] Hurley Jones Testimony, Hearing Transcript, p. 428.

[96] Ibid., p. 433.

[97] Glenn Bell Testimony, Hearing Transcript, pp. 458–59.

[98] See Davis Interview.

[99] Ibid.

[100] Ibid.

[101] Tommy Hart Testimony, Hearing Transcript, p. 444.

[102] Harry J. Bowie, president and chief executive officer, the Delta Foundation, telephone interview, Oct. 12, 1995.

[103] Ibid.

[104] Ibid.

[105] Ibid.

[106] P.L. 103-66, Aug. 10, 1993. The program established nine empowerment zones—six urban and three rural. Each of the six urban areas—Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, New York, and Philadelphia-Camden, NJ—were awarded $100 million in grants and $150 million to $250 million in tax incentives. The rural empowerment zone areas—the Kentucky Highlands, Mid-Delta in Mississippi, and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas—were given $40 million in grants and $150 to $250 million each in tax incentives. The program also established 95 enterprise communities—65 urban and 30 rural—which were to receive grants and tax incentives of approximately $6 million. Also created under the act were two supplemental empowerment zones in Los Angeles and Cleveland. See also Richard Cowden and Ruth Knack, “Power to the Zones: HUD Offers a New Twist on an Old Standby; Housing & Urban Development Department, Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities”; includes related article, “American Planning Association,” February 1995, p. 8.

[107] U.S. General Accounting Office, Rural Development—New Approach to Empowering Communities Needs Refinement, no. GAO.RCED-97-75 (Mar. 31, 1997).

[108] Harry C. Alford, “Why Empowerment Zones Just Aren’t Working,” The Ethnic NewsWatch, July 2, 1997, p. 13.

[109] Ibid.

[110] Bartholomew Sullivan, “Official Pitches Clinton’s Plan for Delta,” The Commercial Appeal, Feb. 27, 1998, p. B1. Joe Gyan Jr., “Gore Announces Expansion of Economic Initiative,” The Advocate, Apr. 17, 1998, p. A1.

[111] Robert E. Friedman, founder, chairman of the board, and director, West Office, the Corporation for Enterprise Development, telephone interview, June 18, 1996.

[112] Robert E. Friedman, The Safety Net As Ladder (Washington, DC: The Council of State Policy & Planning Agencies, 1988), pp. 132–34.

[113] Hawkins Testimony, Hearing Transcript, p. 334.

[114] Cicero Wilson Testimony, Hearing Transcript, pp. 341–42, 346.

[115] Ibid., p. 346. See generally Michael Sherraden, Assets and the Poor, A New American Welfare Policy (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1991), chap. 10, p. 220.

[116] Jacquelyn W. McCray Testimony, Hearing Transcript, p. 352.

[117] Hawkins Testimony, Hearing Transcript, pp. 338–39.

[118] P.L. 106-554.

[119] See World Wide Web <http://whitehouse.gov/WH/New/New_Markets/tripoverview.html>. Legislation creating the CDFI Fund was passed in 1994. The fund’s goal, through grants, loans, and equity investments, is to create a network of community development financial institutions in distressed areas across the United States.

[120] See ibid.

[121] Ibid. These programs include the CDFI Fund and the empowerment zones; and the reformed Community Reinvestment Act, which provides for emphasis on performance.

[122] Charles Babington, “Desperation Despite a VIP Visit; After a Presidential Trip and Promises of Investment, Tough Work Remains for Hard-Pressed Communities,” The Washington Post, July 7, 1999, p. A2.

[123]Cities Not Alone in Needing Help; Clinton Correct to Look to Hinterlands,” The Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale), July 10, 1999, p. A14.

[124] Sylvester Brown, “Black Entrepreneurs Need to Use New Loan Fund and Believe in Themselves,” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 29, 2000, p. B15.

[125] Ibid.

[126] Ibid.

[127] Ibid.

[128] Andrew Cuomo, “The Trip Into Poverty,” The Washington Post, July 11, 1999, p. B7.

[129] Ibid.

[130] Deirdre Shesgreen, “White House and GOP Cooperate to Help Revive Poor Communities,” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Apr. 30, 2000, p. A9.

[131] Ibid. (discussing the differences in the two proposals).

[132] Ibid.

[133] Ibid.

[134] U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Equal Opportunity in Farm Programs: An Appraisal of Services Rendered by Agencies of the United States Department of Agriculture, 1965, pp. 99–100 (hereafter cited as USCCR, Equal Opportunity in Farm Programs).

[135] John Springer, “Black Farmers Group Supports Settlement,” The Hartford Courant, Nov. 23, 1998, p. B7 (hereafter cited as Springer, “Black Farmers Group.”)

[136] “Black Farmers March on Capitol to Highlight Discrimination,” (visited Mar. 20, 1998) <http://www.gocarolinas.com/wsoctv/news/1998/3/5/wblack.html>. “John Boyd led his mule named ‘Struggle’ up Pennsylvania Avenue on Thursday in a small march of black farmers who say the Clinton administration is failing to address their claims of discrimination despite its supposed focus on improved race relations. . . . The march of about 250 farmers from the federal courthouse to the Capitol followed a hearing at which U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman set a Feb. [1, 1999] trial date for a $2 billion lawsuit filed by 350 farmers, including some North Carolinians, hoping to force action on their complaints.” Ibid.

[137] See generally Michael Fletcher, “Bias—A Perennial Crop for Black Farmers,” The Washington Post, Dec. 11, 1996, p. A1.

[138] Edward Martin, “For the Land’s Sake—Class Action Case against Federal Lending Policies Discriminating Against African American Farmers,” Business North Carolina, vol. 18 (November 1998), p. 52.

[139] USCCR, Equal Opportunity in Farm Programs, p. 99. The report’s findings were based on information obtained from staff field visits to USDA state and county offices in 22 counties of eight Southern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia). Ibid., p. 2.

[140] U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, The Decline of Black Farming in America, 1982, p. 2 (hereafter cited as USCCR, The Decline of Black Farming).

[141] Ibid., p. 1. The Commission cited to 1978 Bureau of Census agricultural data that classified “farm operators” as full owners, “part owners (who operate leased land as well as their own farms) and tenants.” Ibid. See generally Jim Chen, “Of Agriculture’s First Disobedience and its Fruit,” Vanderbilt Law Review, vol. 48 (1995), p. 1261. “Jim Crow’s creed of racial relations in the South rested on the assumption that white America could confine the descendants of African slaves to the South. But massive resistance to wage-and-hour regulations of agricultural labor eliminated whatever economic advantage that Southern blacks might have kept by working farm related jobs instead of seeking industrial employment opportunities in other regions. Under any economic conditions, the prevailing nonfarm wage rate is the opportunity cost implicit in any decision to perform an equivalent on-farm task. After the New Deal, that wage was no less than the legal minimum wage in any industry covered by the . . . [Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(6) (1988)], and wartime economic expansion yielded a bumper crop of nonagricultural jobs not foreseen during the Great Depression. The jobs were there, the wages were better, and black America was ready to move.” Ibid., p. 1305.

[142] USCCR, The Decline of Black Farming, p. 45. The states are listed in descending order of number of black farmers. See also Adell Brown Jr., Ralph D. Christy, and Tesfa G. Gebremedhin, “Structural Changes in U.S. Agriculture: Implications for African American Farmers,” The Review of Black Political Economy, Spring 1994, p. 52 (hereafter cited as Brown, Christy, and Gebremedhin, “Structural Changes”). “About two-thirds of the farms operated by African Americans in the United States comprise less than fifty acres and sell less than $20,000 of farm products annually. Yet over half of these farmers report farming as their principal occupation and most are over fifty-five years old, educationally disadvantaged, economically poor, and may face institutional barriers (i.e., access to credit, input, and product markets.” Ibid., p. 52.

[143] Adam Nossiter, “A Threat to Minority Aid Worries Black Farmers,” The New York Times, Nov. 28, 1995, p. A20.

[144] Ibid.; see also U.S. Department of Agriculture, Civil Rights Action Team, Civil Rights at the United States Department of Agriculture, February 1997, p. 3 (hereafter cited as USDA/CRAT, Civil Rights), p. 14. “According to the most recent Census of Agriculture, the number of all minority farms has fallen . . . from 950,000 in 1920 to around 60,000 in 1992. For African Americans, the number fell from 925,000, 14% of all farms in 1920 to only 18,000, 1% of all farms in 1992.” Ibid., p. 14.

[145] Pub. L. No. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241 (codified as amended in scattered sections of 42 U.S.C.).

[146] 42 U.S.C. § 2000d (1994); see also U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, The Federal Civil Rights Enforcement Effort—1974: To Extend Federal Financial Assistance, vol. 6 (November 1975), p. 3. “Title VI is the broadest instrument available for the nationwide elimination of invidious discrimination and the effects of discrimination on the basis of race or national origin.” Ibid., p. 3.

[147] U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Federal Civil Rights Commitments and Assessments of Enforcement Resources and Performance, November 1983, p. 2.

[148] U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Federal Title VI Enforcement to Ensure Nondiscrimination in Federally Assisted Programs, June 1996, p. 14 (hereafter cited as USCCR, Federal Title VI Enforcement).

[149] Ibid., p. 250.

[150] Ibid.

[151] Ibid. “OCRE monitors, coordinates, and evaluates agency heads’ efforts to enforce Title VI and other related laws and regulations by conducting audits, onsite field reviews, or compliance reviews to determine the degree of compliance and enforcement.” Ibid., p. 253.

[152] Ibid.

[153] USCCR, Federal Title VI Enforcement, p. 292.

[154] Ibid., pp. 292–94. Some of the other programs include grazing association loans for conservation purposes, soil and water conservation and pollution abatement loans, and water and waste facility loans and grants for water resource development and pollution control. See also ibid., pp. 300–01. “The Acting Director of EOS told the [U.S.] Commission [on Civil Rights] that the current civil rights structure at USDA (one umbrella civil rights office and individual agency civil rights offices) is adequate. However she stressed that USDA’s civil rights office should report directly to the Secretary of the USDA or the USDA should have an assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department. She also said that more interaction between agency heads’ civil rights offices and OCRE is necessary.” Ibid., pp. 300–01.

[155] Ibid., p. 295.

[156] Ibid.

[157] Ibid. Some of the civil rights regulations include: Title VI, Title IX, the Age Discrimination Act, section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and Title VIII of the Fair Housing Act.

[158] Ch. 130, § 4, 12 Stat. 503, 504 (1862) (codified as amended at 7 U.S.C. §§ 301–308 (1994)).

[159] USCCR, Equal Opportunity in Farm Programs, p. 19. In 1862, Congress also created the U.S. Department of Agriculture in order to obtain and disseminate information on new methods of farming. Land grant colleges were established to teach agriculture and mechanic arts.

[160] See Gil Kujovich, “Equal Opportunity in Higher Education and the Black Public College: The Era of Separate But Equal,” Minnesota Law Review, vol. 72 (1987) pp. 29, 41–42 (hereafter cited as Kujovich, “Equal Opportunity in Higher Education”); see also Donald E. Voth, “A Brief History and Assessment of Federal Rural Development Programs and Policies,” Memphis State University Law Review, vol. 25 (1995), p. 1270 (citing the remarks of Professor George McDowell of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics, before a conference in 1991 on the future of the USDA and the land grant system: “[T]he Land-Grant colleges were not originally agricultural colleges, but people’s colleges, though many of the people without access to college were engaged in agriculture. They were to make our democracy better by providing higher education to the sons and daughters of ordinary citizens. . . . For the first time in history, the problems of ordinary people were the subject of scholarship and science. The scholarly agenda was democratized—the development of the Babcock milk test was both a scientific act and a political act.”) Ibid., p. 1270.

[161] 7 U.S.C. §§ 301–308 (1994).

[162] 7 U.S.C. § 304 (1994).

[163] Kujovich, “Equal Opportunity in Higher Education,” p. 42. “The southern and border states referred to . . . are the 17 states that maintained a rigid system of segregation in public higher education during the separate but equal era: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.” Ibid., p. 30, n. 1.

[164] Ibid., p. 42. “In 1871 the black-controlled legislature of Mississippi created Alcorn University for the education of black students and provided that Alcorn would receive three-fifths of the annual income from the federal land grant, with the remainder for the University of Mississippi. Beginning in 1878 the annual income was divided equally between the two institutions. . . . Virginia provided for an equal division of the annual income, with half going to Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. . . . In 1872 the black-controlled South Carolina legislature designated Claflin University, a private black college, as the state’s land grant institution. In 1889 after whites had regained control of the legislature, the income was divided equally between Claflin and the newly created Clemson Agricultural College for whites. In 1896 the legislature established the Colored Normal, Industrial and Agricultural College of South Carolina and provided for the equal division of the income between that institution and Clemson. The black school was subsequently renamed the State Agricultural and Mechanical College.” Ibid., p. 42, nn. 45–47 (internal cites omitted). Cf. USCCR, Equal Opportunity in Farm Programs, p. 19. Trains were used as mobile classrooms to bring information of agricultural advancements from the land grant colleges to the farmers.

[165] Knight v. Alabama, 787 F. Supp. 1030, 1146 (N.D. Ala. 1991) (aff’d in part, rev’d in part, vacated in part, Knight v. Alabama, 14 F.3d 1534 (11th Cir. 1994)). In 1883, the Alabama State Legislature established Alabama’s first agricultural experiment station at Auburn University, which did not admit black students. One year later, the Legislature passed a law that provided a fertilizer tax which appropriated one-third of these funds to the Auburn experiment station. Id.

[166] Ch. 314, 24 Stat. 440 (1887) (codified as amended at 7 U.S.C. § 361a–i (1994)).

[167] Knight, 787 F. Supp. at 1146 (stipulations of fact (citing the Hatch Act) (emphasis in original)). “When the Hatch Act was passed, the southern states (except for Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia) had designated only white institutions as land grant colleges.” Id. at 1146 (stipulations of fact).

[168] Id. at 1146 (stipulations of fact). “The branch experiment station at Tuskegee would provide limited benefits to black farmers. It did not, however, conduct the kind of scientific work done by the experiment stations under the control of Auburn [University]. . . . The station at Tuskegee was placed under an all-white board of control and was eventually made a branch station of [Auburn University].” Id. at 1146–47; see Kujovich, “Equal Opportunity in Higher Education,” p. 61. The author indicated that by the 1930s, West Virginia State College was the sole black land grant college that received Hatch Act funds for its experiment station. The college received only $1,800 of the millions of federal research funds that had been allocated to the segregationist states.

[169] Ch. 841, 26 Stat. 417 (1890) (codified as amended at 7 U.S.C. § 321 (1994)).

[170] 7 U.S.C. § 323 (1994). A’Lelia Robinson Henry, “Perpetuating Inequality: Plessy v. Ferguson and the Dilemma of Black Access to Public and Higher Education,” Journal of Law and Education, vol. 27 (January 1998), pp. 48–49.

[171] Ch. 841, 26 Stat. 417 (1890) (codified at 7 U.S.C. § 323 (1994)).

[172] Kujovich, “Equal Opportunity in Higher Education,” p. 43. “[T]he establishment and maintenance of such colleges separately for white and colored students shall be held to be a compliance with the provisions of this act if the funds . . . be equitably divided.” Ibid., p. 42 (citing §§ 1, 26 Stat. 417, 418 (1890)).

[173] Ibid., p. 43.

[174] Brown, Christy, and Gebremedhin, “Structural Changes,” p. 65; Kujovich, “Equal Opportunity in Higher Education,” pp. 43–51; see also Knight, 787 F. Supp. at 1052. In this case, the plaintiffs contended inter alia that “AAMU [Alabama A&M University] was designated Alabama’s black land grant university in 1890, but it received no state funding for land grant functions until 1982, when small appropriations began, and the state continues to this day denying AAMU any share of federal funds proceeding from the . . . Morrill Land Grant Act, the . . . Hatch Act . . . and the . . . Smith Lever Act. As a result, black farmers were forced off the land in disproportionate numbers.” Id.

[175] Dr. Bob Robinson, administrator, Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, prepared statement, Hearing Before the House Agriculture Committee, Forestry, Resource Conservation, and Research Subcommittee, Federal News Service, July 9, 1997 (hereafter cited as Robinson, House Agriculture Committee Hearing).

[176] Ch. 79, 38 Stat. 372 (1914) (codified as amended as 7 U.S.C. §§ 341–349 (1994)).

[177] See USCCR, Equal Opportunity in Farm Programs, p. 19. The CES serves as the educational component of the USDA.

[178] Knight, 787 F. Supp. at 1147.

[179] 7 U.S.C. § 341 (1994) (emphasis in original).

[180] Knight, 787 F. Supp. at 1148–52; Kujovich, “Equal Opportunity in Higher Education,” p. 54; see also Knight, 787 F. Supp. at 1168. “There are sixteen states which have designated ‘1890’ [Second Morrill Act land grant] institutions. Those sixteen states are: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Maryland, and Delaware. In each of the 16 states with 1890 institutions, the statewide agricultural experiment station, and the statewide cooperative extension service, are under the exclusive administrative supervision and control of each state’s 1862 [First Morrill Act] land grant institution.” Id. at 1168.

[181] Kujovich, “Equal Opportunity in Higher Education,” pp. 54–55.

[182] Ibid., p. 56. The county extension office was also staffed by home demonstration and youth agricultural club agents.

[183] USCCR, Equal Opportunity in Farm Programs, p. 20; Kujovich, “Equal Opportunity in Higher Education,” p. 56.

[184] Kujovich, “Equal Opportunity in Higher Education,” pp. 56–57. The author noted that while white extension workers received federal, state, and county funds for their agricultural extension activities, black agents used their limited wages to pay for support services. See also Wade v. Mississippi Cooperative Extension Serv., 528 F.2d 508, 515 (1976). The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s findings that Mississippi State University’s Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service had subjected black county agents and workers to employment discrimination.

[185] Kujovich, “Equal Opportunity in Higher Education,” p. 58. “Most white agents . . . found that their own responsibility to serve the white community and other considerations precluded much assistance to the black agent.” Ibid., p. 58, n. 119 (citing W. Truehart, “The Consequences of Federal and State Resource Allocation and Development Policies for Traditionally Black Land-Grant Institutions: 1862–1954” (Ed.D thesis, Harvard University)).

[186] USCCR, Equal Opportunity in Farm Programs, p. 20. The State extension service is represented “as a unit of the land-grant colleges [that] operates with the advice and assistance of the Federal Extension Service. It is responsible for supervising and directing all extension work in the State as well as for formulating and organizing statewide programs. . . . The state extension services have developed cooperative financing and administration with the county governments.” Ibid., p. 21.

[187] Ibid., p. 23.

[188] Ibid., p. 46. Cf. ibid., p. 48, regarding the establishment of lower production goals for black farmers; Deborah M. Clubb, “Glickman Hears Cries of Racism from Area Farmers,” The Commercial Appeal, Jan. 8, 1997, p. A1 (hereafter cited as Clubb, “Glickman Hears”). “Robert Elliott of Gibson County, Tenn., said he worked with the University of Tennessee Extension Service 20 years and was nearly fired when he complained about racial slurs he heard from local farm officials.” Ibid.

[189] Robinson, House Agriculture Committee Hearing.

[190] Ibid.

[191] H.R. Rep. No. 95-986, 95th Cong., 2nd Sess., reprinted in 1978 U.S.C.CA.N. 1106, 1121; USCCR, The Decline of Black Farming, p. 72; see ibid., p. 50. “Most significant is the competitive disadvantage faced by black farmers due to the relatively small size of their landholdings. While the average commercial black-operated farm in the South [in 1978 was] 128 acres, the average white-operated farm . . . [was] more than three times that size—428 acres. The relatively small size of their landholdings combine with current economic conditions, governmental policies, and institutional practices to place black farmers at a competitive disadvantage with large operators and investors, most of whom are white.” Ibid. See generally Court’s Opinion on Plaintiff’s Motion for Class Certification, Pigford v. Glickman, Civil Action No. 97-1978, 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16299, at *1 (D.D.C. 1998). “Until 1994, the USDA operated two separate programs that provided . . . price support loans, disaster payments, ‘farm ownership’ loans and operating loans: the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) and the Farmers Home Administration. . . . In 1994, the functions of the ASCS and the FMHA were consolidated into one newly-created entity, the Farm Service Agency [FSA] . . .” Id. at *3.

[192] USCCR, The Decline of Black Farming, p. 74.

[193] Wayne D. Rasmussen, “New Deal Agricultural Policies After Fifty Years,” Minnesota Law Review, vol. 68 (1983), p. 367.

[194] USCCR, The Decline of Black Farming, p. 74; USCCR, Federal Title VI Enforcement, pp. 292–94. In 1992, FmHA issued $6.8 billion to 87,000 recipients, which included state and local agencies, independent farmers and ranchers, tenants, and profit and nonprofit organizations. Ibid., p. 292.

[195] John Just-Buddy, chief, Economic Enhancement Branch, Farm Service Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, telephone interview, Feb. 29, 1996 (hereafter cited as Just-Buddy Interview, Feb. 29, 1996).

[196] Ibid.

[197] John Just-Buddy, chief, Economic Enhancement Branch/formerly acting director of special programs, Farm Service Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, telephone interview, June 25, 1996 (hereafter cited as Just-Buddy Interview). The SFTTAP was originally known as the 1987 Agricultural Credit Act. The program was part of FmHA’s response to former President Ronald Reagan’s Executive Order 12320, which supported historically black colleges and universities. The 1985 farm bill did not allocate funding for this program. The USDA ultimately used part of its operating funds for salaries and expenses to support the Small Farmer Training and Assistance Program. Just-Buddy Interview, Feb. 29, 1996. See also Just-Buddy Interview. “In an October 1995 [USDA] . . . reorganization, the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Services [ASCS] and the Farm Credit Program from . . . FmHA were combined to form the Farm Service Agency . . .” Ibid. According to Mr. Just-Buddy, ASCS had a history of not working well with minority citizens; “[N]ationwide [ASCS] had only one or two blacks on its county committees which [made] decisions regarding loans to farmers.” Ibid.

[198] Just-Buddy Interview.

[199] Ibid. Annual awards administered at the 1890 and 1862 Land Grant Institutions and were used for training and management assistance for minority and small farmers and ranchers. Personalized technical assistance consisted of providing individualized custom farm plans, production and marketing practices, farm accounting, and record-keeping principles. A farm management specialist then visited every participant’s farm one to three times per month.

[200] Jesse Harness, Ph.D., associate extension administrator and coordinator of civil rights and equal employment opportunity, Alcorn State University, telephone interview, July 19, 1996 (hereafter cited as Harness Interview); see ibid. Small farmers are defined as those who have gross incomes of $100,000 a year or less. In addition, a small farm is considered to be 200 to 300 acres of land, and a large farm is 4,000 to 5,000 acres. See generally ibid. The program encourages farmers to grow crops such as vegetables that are nontraditional for Mississippi. Vegetables require less acreage for a profitable return than other crops that have traditionally grown in the state, i.e., cotton, soybeans, and rice. Cotton may produce $250/acre of land, while vegetables could produce $2,000/acre.

[201] Ibid. The program also serves Madison Country, which borders the Delta.

[202] Ibid. Another 400 to 800 clients are also assisted through this program. Some of these individuals are residents of nontargeted counties.

[203] Ibid.; USDA/CRAT, Civil Rights, p. 21. “[In 1995 and 1996,] only 67% of African American [FSA direct and guaranteed] loans were approved in Louisiana, compared to 83% of non-minority loans. Alabama showed a similar disparity—only 78% of African American loans [were] approved, compared to 90% of non-minority loans. . . . In the Southeast [part of the country], . . . in several States it took three times as long on average to process African American loan applications as it did non-minority applications. Similar disparities between non-minority loan processing and American Indian loan processing appeared in records for a number of States included in FSA’s Northwest region.” Ibid. See also ibid., p. 15. This reference provides an overall description of farmers’ experiences in obtaining FSA loans, and how the agency’s processing delays resulted in a loss of farm profit. R.C. Howard, Tchula, Mississippi farmer, telephone interview, Feb. 6, 1997 (hereafter cited as Howard Interview). Mr. Howard remarked that area white farmers informed him of their standard practice in purchasing fertilizer. They told the local fertilizer company that they expected an FSA loan. The fertilizer company would then contact FSA, and the agency would confirm that the farmer should receive the farm loan. These farmers would receive their fertilizer supply on credit. When Mr. Howard attempted this, the FSA reportedly told the fertilizer company that he had submitted a loan application, but it could not verify that Mr. Howard would get a loan. As a result, Mr. Howard could not obtain his fertilizer.

Herbert Williams, a Warren County, Mississippi, farmer, testified during the public session of the hearing that local FSA officials overtly delayed processing his farm loan, and reduced the requested amounts. As a result, he was only able to purchase one tractor but no additional farm equipment. In addition, he maintained that in 1996, white farmers’ loan applications were processed before his, although his request had been submitted earlier. Williams Testimony, Hearing Transcript, pp. 653–55.

[204] Ibid. Dr. Harness indicated that the 1995 percentage rate is lower than the overall state average.

[205] Lloyd Shaffer Testimony, Hearing Transcript, pp. 584–85.

[206] Pub. L. No. 104-127, 110 Stat. 888 (codified at 7 U.S.C.A §§ 7201–7334 (Supp. 1998)). See generally Stephen Carpenter, “Farm Service Agency Credit Programs and USDA National Appeals Division,” Drake Journal of Agriculture Law, vol. 3 (Spring 1998), pp. 35, 36–43 (hereafter cited as Carpenter, “FSA Credit”).

[207] See 1996 FAIR Act, Pub. L. No. 104-127, § 648(b), 110 Stat. 888, 1104 (codified at 7 U.S.C.A. § 2008h (Supp. 1998)); Carpenter, “FSA Credit,” p. 37; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Communications, 1996 Farm Bill, “The Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996,” (visited Dec. 6, 1998) <http://www.usda.gov/farmbill/title0.htm> (hereafter cited as USDA, “1996 FAIR Act”). But see USDA Secretary Dan Glickman, “Introduction of the Agricultural Credit Restoration Act,” USDA Press Release No. 0124.98 (Mar. 19, 1998) (visited Dec. 6, 1998) <http:// www. usda.gov/news/releases/1998/03/0124>. Secretary Glickman recognized Rep. Eva Clayton (D-NC) and Senator Charles Robb (D-VA) for supporting legislation to eliminate this problem. “The Agricultural Credit Restoration Act will help restore the notion of redemption to our farm credit policy. The 1996 Farm Bill stripped every producer who’s ever had a USDA farm debt write-down of the ability to get another government farm loan. That standard is stricter than even that which for-profit commercial banks use. That is not the business of government. . . .We are the final place people have to turn to before they lose land that often has been in their family for generations. This bill offers a solution that is fair to farmers, that recognizes the risks they have to face every day. It is also a solution that is fair to taxpayers, and makes sure we offer a second chance to those who are credit worthy. . . .” Ibid.

[208] See 1996 FAIR Act, Pub. L. No. 104-127, § 648(b), 110 Stat. 888, 1104 (codified at 7 U.S.C.A. § 2008h (Supp. 1998)); Carpenter, “FSA Credit,” pp. 37–38.

[209] USDA, “1996 FAIR Act”; 7 U.S.C.A. § 2008h(b)(2) (Supp. 1998).

[210] 7 C.F.R. § 1945.162(a)(1998); Carpenter, “FSA Credit,” p. 38.

[211] Carpenter, “FSA Credit,” p. 40; see 7 U.S.C. § 1985(e)(1)(A)(i) (1994) (repealed and replaced by 1996 FAIR Act, Pub. L. No. 104-127, § 38, 110 Stat. 888, 1094 (codified at 7 U.S.C.A. § 1985(c) (Supp. 1998)); USDA/CRAT, Civil Rights, p. 26. “Because this rule change ended the program altogether, without protection of existing options, many minority and limited-resource farmers have lost this opportunity to repurchase their land.” Ibid.

[212] Harness Interview. See Lloyd Shaffer, Bentonia, Mississippi, farmer, telephone interview, Feb. 18, 1997 (hereafter cited as Shaffer Interview). Mr. Shaffer stated guaranteed loans are difficult for black farmers to obtain, since most of the local banks generally do not lend to minorities. He explained that loan applications have to be approved by a local FSA branch supervisor in the farmer’s county. The application is sent to a state office for approval. However, the state office sanctions the application only after the local bank issues its approval. Although the guaranteed loans are available to black farmers, over the years white farmers have frequently relied more on this source of funding. See also Harness Interview. Dr. Harness stated African American farmers’ problems are further exacerbated by the reduction of the number of direct loans that they can obtain from the federal government.

[213] Shaffer Testimony, Hearing Transcript, p. 596. “My brother and I went to our local bank, which was his bank which he had been doing business with for I don’t know how many years, to purchase a $16,000 refrigerated truck. I’m a vegetable farmer. The bank said they wanted the truck for collateral, a $10,000 CD, and 40 acres of land, for the truck. And this was in 1992, I believe. And that’s the situation we face when we go to borrow money, even in the local banks. . . . [W]e must have a lot of confidence in ourselves, because we put it all up.” Ibid.

[214] Harness Interview.

[215] Howard Interview.

[216] Ibid. Mr. Howard indicated that he had obtained assistance completing his loan application from Alcorn’s SFTTAP. He asserted that FmHA staff altered the figures on his application so that it did not reflect cash flow and other amounts. Mr. Howard, who had kept a copy of his original application, was later informed by FmHA staff that certain information, such as his income tax return, was missing from his loan request. When he searched the contents of his file at the FmHA office, he was able to retrieve the missing information from the office file.

[217] Tony Freemantle, “Black Farmers Besieged by Economics, Racism,” The Houston Chronicle, Mar. 9, 1997, p. A1 (hereafter cited as Freemantle, “Black Farmers Besieged”); see Ben Burkett, state coordinator, Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, “Black Owned Land: A Disappearing Resource,” Mississippi Delta Hearing, Exhibit 15. “Another provision in the [1996 Farm] Bill is the seven year transitional payments . . . [which] will have an adverse impact on Black farmers. The government will provide subsidies for the next seven years, and after that, farmers are on their own. Any farmer growing crops will have to be able to sell his product on the world market. If credit is not available, how can Black farmers compete with large corporate farms? Without the subsidies, he/she will be at the mercy of a market controlled by large corporate farms. Is it the government’s plan to take Black farmers back to sharecropping? What will happen to thousands of other Black farmland owners, such as Black women who own land and rent to Black farmers? [B]y making farm land available to Blacks, these women are getting much needed income. If Blacks are unable to farm that land, it too will fall prey to land speculators because it then becomes a burden to its owner.” Ibid.

[218] Freemantle, “Black Farmers Besieged.” Cf. ibid. “Unemployment rates in Bolivar County sit at 8.4%, compared with the state average of 5.9%. In some communities, 60% of the households have incomes below the poverty level.”

[219] Court Opinion of Plaintiffs’ Motion for Class Certification, No. 95-1149, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1683 (D.D.C. Feb. 14, 1997). This case is now known as Herrera v. Glickman.

[220] Id. at *7. The proposed class of plaintiffs was defined as: “All African American or Hispanic American persons, who between 1981 and the present, have suffered from racial or national origin discrimination in the application for or the servicing of loans or credit from the FmHA (now Farm Service Agency) of the USDA, which has caused them to sustain economic loss and/or mental anguish/emotion [sic] distress damages.” Id. at *10.

[221] Williams, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1683. “Most of the original Williams plaintiffs settled their claims against the USDA. The two remaining plaintiffs, both of whom are Hispanic, had pending administrative complaints with the USDA, and the court therefore [stopped] the lawsuit pending an administrative determination by the USDA on the merits of the administrative complaints.” Pigford v. Glickman, No. 97-1978, 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16299 at *8, n. 2 (D.D.C. Oct. 9, 1998). Pigford v. Glickman, 185 F.R.D. 82, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5220 (D.D.C. 1999).

[222] Mary Beausoleil, “Black Farmers Battle USDA,” The Richmond Times Dispatch, Nov. 24, 1996, p. A1. See Mary Beausoleil, “Farmers: Enough Hearings,” The Richmond Times Dispatch, Dec. 15, 1996, p. A1 (hereafter cited as Beausoleil, “Farmers: Enough Hearings.”) Black farmers sought a speedy settlement of civil rights cases filed against the USDA that have been pending for a number of years.

[223] See generally Martin, “For the Land’s Sake.” The author provides a detailed description of Mr. Pigford’s farming experiences with the USDA.

[224] Beausoleil, “Farmers: Enough Hearings.” See also Dave Hirschman, “USDA Chief Plans Visit to Assess Bias Charge,” The Commercial Appeal, Jan. 1, 1997, p. B4. Approximately 300 black employees have also filed a class action lawsuit against the USDA’s Forest Service. They alleged the agency’s management officials perpetuated a pattern of disparate treatment in various areas, such as training, promotions, hiring, and award recognition. The case originated in Region 8, which includes South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Puerto Rico.

[225] Pigford, 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16299 at *5.

[226] Peter Hardin, “Congress Lifts Key Obstacle to Redress for Black Farmers,” The Richmond Times Dispatch, July 18, 1998, p. A1 (hereafter cited as Hardin, “Congress Lifts Obstacle”); see generally Henry Campbell Black, Black’s Law Dictionary (St. Paul: West Publishing, 1983), p. 477 (paperback edition). A statute of limitations is defined as: “A statute prescribing limitations to the right of action on certain described causes of action. . . . declaring that no suit shall be maintained on such causes of action . . . unless brought within a specified period of time after the right accrued. . . . Statutes of limitations are statutes of repose, . . . legislative enactments as prescribe[d] [by] the periods within which actions may be brought upon certain claims or within certain rights may be enforced.” Ibid.

[227] Bill Miller, “Judge Allows Black Farmers’ Class-Action Suit,” The Washington Post, Oct. 10, 1998, p. A13 (hereafter cited as Miller, “Judge Allows”).

[228] Hardin, “Congress Lifts Obstacle.” Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate agreed to waive the statute of limitations provision. The White House and USDA Secretary Glickman also supported this measure.

[229] See Congressional Black Caucus, “CBC Wins Waiver of Statute of Limitations For Black Farmer Discrimination Claims,” Press Release, June 25, 1998, in which Congressional Black Caucus Chair Maxine Waters, giving special thanks to caucus members, Rep. John Conyers, Rep. Edolphus Towns, Rep. Eva Clayton, Rep. Sanford Bishop, Rep. Jim Clyburn, Rep. Earl Hilliard, Rep. Cynthia McKinney, Rep. Bobby Scott, and Rep. Bennie Thompson, who have “worked tirelessly to ensure justice for black farmers,” states: “The CBC has held hearings, participated in ‘listening sessions’ around the country, joined with black farmers at rallies at the USDA and the Department of Justice, facilitated a meeting between the President and the black farmers, worked with the attorneys representing various black farmer groups, and negotiated the USDA’s administrative complaint process for black farmers.”

[230] Miller, “Judge Allows.” There are more than 400 black farmers in 15 states, who are involved as plaintiffs in this matter. Martin, “For the Land’s Sake.”

[231] Peter Scott, “Black Farmers Suing for Bias are Offered Deal,” The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Nov. 24, 1998, p. A3.

[232] Ibid.

[233] Michael A. Fletcher, “Judge Approves USDA Settlement of Black Farmers’ Suit,” The Washington Post, Apr. 15, 1999, p. A29.

[234] See World Wide Web at <http://www.usda.gov/da/consentsum.htm>.

[235] Ibid.

[236] Ibid.

[237] Armando Villafranca, “Too Little Too Late; Black farmers’ discrimination settlement may not ease years of pain,” The Houston Chronicle, Dec. 5, 1999, A1.

[238] Patrick Howe, “Dickey’s black farmers bill ‘smoke and mirrors,’ caucus says,” The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 5, 2000, p. A3.

[239] Ibid.

[240] Ben Burkett, manager of the Indian Springs Farmers Co-Operative/member of the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, telephone interview, Feb. 7, 1997 (hereafter cited as Burkett Interview); see also Howard Interview.

[241] Bob Hohler, “Black Farmers Press White House,” The Rocky Mountain News, Dec. 14, 1996, p. 64. “His debt soared to $300,000, thrusting him into foreclosure battles and forcing him to abandon soybeans and cotton for far-less-profitable crops of turnips and collard greens.” Ibid.

[242] Ibid.

[243] Fletcher, “Bias,” p. A1.

[244] Ibid.

[245] National Public Radio, “Morning Edition,” Dec. 20, 1996; Mary Beausoleil, “Minority Farmers Get U.S. Attention,” The Richmond Times Dispatch, Dec. 22, 1996, p. A1; see editorial, “U.S. Agriculture’s Seeds of Failure,” The Washington Post, Dec. 12, 1996, p. A20. Farm Service Agency administrator Grant Buntrock said in a statement, “We recognize there have been instances of discrimination in responding to requests for our services in the past, and we deplore it.” See also Mary Beausoleil, “White Farmers Turning to Black Group for Help,” The Richmond Times Dispatch, Dec. 30, 1996, p. A1.

[246] Ibid. C.f. Mark Holmberg, “Farmer’s File May Have Been Tampered With,” The Richmond Times Dispatch, Jan. 9, 1997, p. A1. A spokesperson for the USDA acknowledged that a “breach of security” caused a theft of a farmer’s file in the western Henrico County, Virginia, local office of the FSA. The file belonged to John W. Boyd Jr., president of the National Black Farmers Association. Previously, Mr. Boyd accused the USDA of racial discrimination.

[247] Mary Beausoleil, “Complaint Sessions Omit State,” The Richmond Times Dispatch, Jan. 1, 1997, p. A2.; see also Burkett Interview, p. 2; “Black Farmers Raise Discrimination Issues with Ag Sec’y at Listening Session in Georgia,” The Greene Country Democrat, Jan. 8, 1997, p. 1; USDA/CRAT, Civil Rights, p. 3. “The listening panels were composed of either Secretary Glickman or Deputy Secretary Richard E. Rominger (with one exception), CRAT members, members of Congress, and members of the State Food and Agriculture Council. Customer sessions were tailored to address the civil rights concerns of specific cultural groups.” Ibid.

[248] USDA/CRAT, Civil Rights, p. 3.

[249] U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Communications, “Glickman Announces Civil Rights Listening Session, Civil Rights Action Team Members,” Press Release No. 0651.96 (Dec. 31, 1996) (hereafter cited as USDA, Press Release No. 0651.96); U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Communications, “Statement of Secretary Dan Glickman, Civil Rights Action Plan,” Press Release No. 0065.97 (Feb. 28, 1997) (hereafter cited as USDA, Press Release No. 0065.97).

[250] See Beausoleil, “Complaint Sessions.” Other sessions were held in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Brownsville, Texas; Salinas and Sacramento, California; Rapid City, South Dakota; and Window Rock, Arizona.

[251] Clubb, “Glickman Hears.”

[252] USDA/CRAT, Civil Rights, p. 6. Female farmers, as well as Hispanic, Asian, and Native American farmers also voiced their concerns about being excluded from USDA programs, as well as the Department’s alleged lack of accountability. Ibid., pp. 6–8.

[253] Ibid., pp. 27–28; see Mary Beausoleil, “Farmers Vent Anger at Session,” The Richmond Times Dispatch, Jan. 10, 1997, p. A1.

[254] USDA/CRAT, Civil Rights, pp. 27–28.

[255] USDA, Press Release No. 0065.97, p. 1. The Secretary indicated that these measures and other actions would assist the Department in ensuring the enforcement of federal civil rights laws.

[256] Elizabeth Warren, “Clayton’s Farm Service Plan Praised,” Medill News Service, Oct. 24, 1997 (visited Dec. 6, 1998) <http://www.fayettevillenc.com/foto/news/content/1997 tx97oct/n24farm.htm>.

[257] USDA, Press Release No. 0065.97, p. 2. Following this report, it was expected the OIG would examine discrimination complaints in state and county farm loan operations.

[258] Ben Burkett Testimony, Hearing Transcript, pp. 597–98.

[259] Ibid., pp. 591–92.

[260] Ibid., p. 614. Mr. Burkett estimates that there are only about eight African Americans out of a total of approximately 80 staff and supervisors in local FSA offices in Mississippi.

[261] John Boyd Testimony, Hearing Transcript, pp. 599–600.

[262] Ibid.

[263] USDA/CRAT, Civil Rights, p. 26.

[264] Burkett Testimony, Hearing Transcript, pp. 610–11.

[265] Ibid., p. 611.

[266] USCCR, The Decline of Black Farming, p. 151.

[267] The Minority Farmer: A Disappearing American Resource; Has the Farmers Home Administration Been the Primary Catalyst? H.R. Rep. No. 101-984 (1990).

[268] USDA/CRAT, Civil Rights, p. 9.

[269] Ibid.

[270] Ibid.

[271] Ibid., p. 11.

[272] Ibid.

[273] Janelle Carter, “USDA Civil Rights Office ‘in Disarray,’ Inspector Says; Task Force Urged,” The Washington Post, Oct. 2, 1998, p. A21 (hereafter cited as Carter, “USDA in Disarray”).

[274] CBS, “60 Minutes,” Nov. 29, 1998.

[275] Ibid.

[276] Ibid. “[Mr.] Featherstone also denies charges from black farmers that he would routinely sleep in his office while they waited outside to see him. [He explained], ‘Sometimes when I had to think of something, or do . . . quite a bit of calculations in my head, sometimes atmosphere pressures would close my eyes to do that.’ ” Ibid.

[277] Ibid.

[278] Boyd Testimony, Hearing Transcript, p. 594. Mr. Boyd stated, “My particular case has been at the Department for 5½ years. They [the USDA] said I’ve been discriminated against. Even though your loans were approved, Mr. Boyd, we didn’t fund them three years in a row. So they found in favor of discrimination. They said that we’ll offer you some type of settlement, some type of debt relief, compensation. None of these things have taken place. Why? . . . I think that all these cases—if this was a group of white individuals the federal government would have stepped in and taken care of them years ago.” Ibid. See also Clubb, “Glickman Hears.” “Abraham Carpenter, Jr. farms 1,000 acres of produce in Grady, Arkansas. He says the USDA has withheld payments due him for three years.” Ibid.

[279] Carter, “USDA in Disarray.”

[280] Ibid.

[281] Ibid.

[282] Ibid. The proposed task force would be composed of civil rights staff from other federal agencies and senior USDA personnel. In response, Secretary Glickman indicated that he would request permission from Congress to create the new civil rights position, but he did not support the outside task force recommendation.

[283] USDA/CRAT, Civil Rights, p. 23. But see ibid., p. 23. A 1996 D.J. Miller Report indicated that when minority farmers did use the USDA’s appeals system, there was not a statistically significant difference among the outcomes of white male, female, and minority farmers’ complaints.

[284] Burkett Testimony, Hearing Transcript, p. 580.

[285] Shaffer Interview.

[286] Ibid. In the past, Mr. Shaffer indicated that black farmers were unaware of the process to obtain membership on county boards.

[287] See Brown, Christy, and Gebremedhin, “Structural Changes,” p. 62; Patricia E. McLean-Meyinsse and Adell Brown Jr., “Survival Strategies of Successful Black Farmers,” Review of Black Political Economy, Spring 1994, p. 78.

[288] USDA/CRAT, Civil Rights, p. 28.

[289] Ibid., pp. 28–29.

[290] Burkett Testimony, Hearing Transcript, pp. 615–16.