Immediate Action for Longstanding Injustice

07/26/2010 11:45 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

After the Senate's vote, which effectively removed appropriations language for minority farmers, Senator Harry Reid released a statement saying, "Republicans should be held accountable for standing in the way of justice for those affected." I am no politician, I am a farmer, but it seems to me everyone should be held accountable for standing in the way of justice -- not just Republicans.

Last week, the White House often referred to the handling of Shirley Sherrod's firing as presenting "a teachable moment" for Americans. Unfortunately, one of the things I learned from that moment was that a black woman can be fired for the mere accusation that she discriminated against a white farmer, yet thousands of instances of discrimination against minority farmers over several decades go unresolved. After being included, and then cut from three separate appropriations bills, I also learned that despite the government's "settling" of the Black Farmer case, it refuses to fund the settlement. The Black Farmer settlement was a compromise on the part of the farmers. Despite the fact that the government entered into a settlement largely on its own terms and certainly its own timeline -- it remains unfunded.

The government entered into this settlement;

The government wrote a check with insufficient funds; and

The government must be held accountable.

The record on what has transpired between the USDA and minority farmers is clear. There has been no edited footage -- no ambiguity. That racism has become synonymous with the USDA is without credible dissent. Legal and political wrangling aside, the president, the Secretary of Agriculture, Senator Reid, Speaker Pelosi and any other person who examines the facts objectively, could only reach the conclusion that rampant and systemic racism against minority farmers by the USDA led directly to their inequitable treatment and untold economic damages.

Senators, both Republican and Democrat, have been quick to say that they support the farmers. But their inaction speaks louder than words. We demand action now. It is time for the Senate to vote on funding the settlement of Black Farmers' discrimination claims.