Monday, the day that Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is observed, marked a historic day for filing a claim in the Pigford II settlement. Farmers and former farmers traveled from all over North Carolina to the American Tobacco Campus in Durham to take advantage of free legal help in filing a claim in the most recent settlement. Troy Murray is a former farmer from Duplin County, NC that will be filing a claim and he lays the groundwork for what prompted the lawsuit by Timothy Pigford:
“The Pigford settlement is where the black farmers filed a claim against the USDA about racial discrimination especially where white farmers in the area were getting loans and black folks was denied loans strictly basically because of their race.
Many, many farmers were getting loans but it was telling us there were no funds available and they weren’t accepting applications at this time, so a lot of black farmers was forced out of the farming business.”
Murray explains the progression of events that drove him out of farming:
“I actually applied for a loan to continue farming, farming has been in my family practically all my life, still some of my people is still doing some small farming, but it got to the point where we couldn’t compete with the bigger farmers because we didn’t have the equipment and we couldn’t’ borrow no money to update our equipment. Trying to do 50 acres of corn and 10 of tobacco with a one-row tractor and a stick barn it got too costly and we were forced out of business. And after that we began loosing our land because we couldn’t afford to maintain it and pay taxes on it. so, we had to take other jobs, which you know were one-tenth what you could make farming if you got the same opportunity that most of the other farmers got.”
As far as discrimination in the loan process, Murray says he believes it’s still alive and well:
“We been scared for long…most of us is being offered $50,000, and it sounds like a lot of money, but it’s not a lot of money, I mean after you catch up on so many things that you need to catch up on, you’re right back where you started from, you could have made a decent living farming if you could have got that loan. But, nobody’s mad because that’s just the way it is, it happened that way. And we’re still being discriminated against, people…I don’t think we can get $80,000 from nobody, from USDA, from nobody else, right now, as we speak. So, discrimination is still out here, it just kind of covered up a little bit, but it’s still here.”
When it comes to receiving funds from the Pigford settlement, Murray says it’s a start, but not a cure:
“Hopefully, hopefully this will start some of the healing, but it can’t stop the hurt, because, like I said you riding by the land that you and your family used to own and somebody has got it and making money off of it. a lot of people’s putting trailers and stuff on your land that you used to own and you had to sell it but for keeping one acre because you couldn’t afford the rent.”
The group of lawyers helping people file their claims took the project to South Carolina on Tuesday.