New Bill Provides Financial Assistance for Farmers

Montgomery, Al. (WSFA) -- Al Hooks, 60, farms nearly 200 acres in Macon county.  A third generation farmer, agriculture runs through his veins.

"Since the late 1800s, there has been a Hooks on this farm," he explained.

Carrying on that tradition has been difficult--especially, Hooks says, after discrimination prevented him from getting government assistance.

"You would never get what you were asking for," Hooks recalled.  "You would just get a small portion of it, while there were other farmers getting big portions of allotments that were handed out."

Many black farmers sued, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture settled, but the Government told more than 66,000 farmers they missed the deadline to get financial aid.

Good news, however, could be on the way.  Due to a new farm bill signed by Congress, farmers who missed out will now have two years to present their cases.

"If you were a litigant in that case, and you were thrown out on the grounds that you didn't get your claim in on time, you have an opportunity now to get your day in court," explained Rep. Artur Davis.

With financial help on the horizon, however, farmers are encountering yet another problem: being pestered by lawyers--even scam artists looking to make a quick buck.

"Groups will approach black farmers and say that if you don't sign up in 30 days, the money's going to run out," Davis said.

Flim flam aside, farmers like Al Hooks say any move that provides a little help is welcome.

"If I could get the award from the Government, then it would help me tremendously," he explained.

NOTE: The new farm bill will only help farmers who were told they missed the USDA's deadline.  Congressman Davis says he predicts yet another class-action lawsuit, so much needed financial assistance could come to others--eventually.

Rep. Davis will host an information session for black farmers at Tuskegee University's Kellogg Center.  The event will take place Monday, June 16, from 10:00AM-12:00PM.

Reporter: Cody Holyoke