Wayne Alexander, 61, of Houston, says unfair treatment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture led to the loss of his farm in Needville. He and his wife now live in a Midtown apartment.
Wayne Alexander figures he would still own his 151-acre farm in Needville if he were white.
He would be enjoying the fruits of his labor, perhaps watching his relatives turn a profit from the St. Augustine grass and oak growing from their soil.
He would still have savings, and maybe, just maybe, his wife wouldn’t have to work two jobs to support the family.
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But Alexander, like tens of thousands of black farmers, says he was mistreated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which in 1999 acknowledged decades of widespread discrimination against African-Americans.
Some were denied federal assistance loans without legitimate grounds. Others were approved but received the funds after planting season, a handicap that left them struggling to pay off accumulating interest. Many lost their property.
While the USDA agreed to a $1 billion settlement with about 20,000 black farmers in 1999, as many as 70,000 are still awaiting payments on claims the government says were filed late.
The U.S. House of Representatives this year authorized an additional $1.25 billion for new payments, but the Senate has twice rejected bills that would have allocated the money.
For Alexander, who now rents a Midtown apartment with his wife, the payments are long overdue and may come too late for him or other farmers, if they come at all, he said.
“They need to just try to do the right thing and try to correct some of the wrong that they’ve perpetrated for so many years,” he said.
President Barack Obama this month pressed Congress to approve funding for the Pigford settlement, named after one of the farmers who sued the government for discrimination in 1997. Although the president called the settlement a priority, the Senate has not appeared willing to move it forward.
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