DiscoverRevealLosing ground

Losing ground

Update: 2017-07-01


In 1996, Eddie Wise, the son of a sharecropper, purchased a farm with a loan from the USDA. Twenty years later, the USDA foreclosed on the property and evicted him. Reveal investigates his claim that he was discriminated against because of his race.

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the Center for investigative reporting in PR X This is reveal a mallet and vandalized only farm dream the black man North Carolina in the nineteen forties the wasn't easy father grandfather great grandfather we all share problems with anyone at the farm of his that study have tag team signed going army was working in a tobacco field when an Army recruiter showed up and I raise both A and say Oh we walked off that far he made himself at how President next Mona Fong Moby own have ample not working will fall years later he would get his own farm but he says that over twenty five year period the U S Agriculture Department discriminated against him and his wife Dorothy because of their race and finally drove them off filling the John B win of the podcast seen has been following this story for years and investigates what happened so I was sedated today is day one of the thickest point whole day is January twenty and Wednesday January twenty and twenty six twenty eight forty am just arrived in any wise as far as a small one hundred and six acre hog operation on rolling land near Rocky Mount North Carolina the driveway bends a Grove of trees leading to the mobile home where he lives with his wife Dorothy had driven out this morning because Eddie called and said something was about to go down I just turned on my recorder were talking when one of these dogs interrupts announcing the arrival of the expected guests this is what the and here they come that curve white SUV's in squad cars seven vehicles in all the officers fill out I count fourteen mostly U S marshals with a few County deputies as backup some of the marshals carry semiautomatic rifles down the moto moto oh by the U S Marshal the leader of the operation approaches Addie and presents the papers marked service usually no one will know you all for a foreclosure judgment initiate you into the dorm so we had to remove your residence this morning and are certain items we take so I see that work when you read a lot on your life and take it from this point said their child or to be seizing on your property is a full listing here this is for you and he takes the documents studies he has a round face and farmers thick hand he still a formidable presence and seventy two years old what's with what you're what Mo I suffer from very unhappy or stressed that he was told the marshals would be coming to seize his farm equipment because he hadn't made payments on its government loan he says he didn't know he and Dorothy would be evicted today so I'm supposed to take my life and it was full on for so that's the sea or from the court you have the weapons now so of course I will understand the question is yes I'm retiring the Senate will appreciate your service we walk in with water which will make sure there is finality July forgotten and feel you can see what he means when you walk into it in the past when dealing with USDA officials has and threatened violence but this day he's calm and polite but until that time we had before the the the the the armed marshals follow home residents from the inside the Marshall securities weapons for the PR y for either the store buy more guns in the shot not handed over to get down to Eddie wakes Dorothy she has diabetes and can't walk well once he stressed he will have to help her to the car an hour later evicted from their farm and home twenty years they sit in their current church parking lot across the road eddies in the front seat and back the the grounds of the year the moon new summer look is going to have a descent to figure out who lost a wounded last Dorothy what she's thinking and feeling fulfilled anything around to score in line with what a rare sane and what was happening to us I don't approve of it what can we do it this far as we sit in the quiet of the car and talk a truck pulling a stock trailer pulls out of the farm road maybe fifty yards from us and drives away carrying away dozens of Hawks had their go the pigs there goes that during that night the couple would find a room at a low cost motel The The The Man to Wise is almost ten years ago I was working on a documentary about family farmers I visited their place a bunch of times recording as they went about their days as Eddie worked with their small herd of two hundred and fifty Hawks the the the ah that's Dorothy in the farm where are you to the Dorothy tells Eddie in a mock scolding voice to live up to his last name was well why did I do it in its box and played well the hallway how universe and got to know her and lay dough made her ma the couple met in nineteen eighty eight in Washington D C The Army says meow universe to ours to smelter site for mobile operations repelling job training and solves Susan Graham and as for the cause of us she said the screw lobotomy demand come in my life being as she sobbed waterfall all my life but alas a you kidding me he told me he was going to lessen the latest BBC Food Mall inaugural fall when someone was looking to pick blueberries this week in Santa Fe ok let me get my head so I got my hair put it on and we dove downy and pick blueberries on a now and I mean this little older sister married sixteen years the So life to me can be very injurious if you have somebody lift the cart so they can communicate with and you them and they and your help no matter what you have the the twenty sixty the U S government would take the wise his farm and run them off the er er er soul how did end up happening the wisest claim the government officials discriminated against them for over twenty five years and set them up to fail back in the day while loan officer will owe money to speed a we need some money and and when we as blacks when to ask there was so out of the reporter John B wind picks up this story when we come back on revealed the Center for investigative reporting x The The The The Center for investigative reporting in PR hacks this does reveal a metal edge of the century ago black families owned about fifteen percent of American farmland today only one percent of farm families are African American the report twenty years ago the U S Agriculture Department called itself quote a contributing factor in the dramatic decline of black farmers a landmark class action lawsuit filed by black farmers against the USDA notice the pic for case named after North Carolina farmer Timothy pick for it was settled in nineteen ninety nine court from the farmers had been systematically denied aid solely because they were black the loans grants and subsidies that farmers receive as a result the government paid black farmers more than two billion dollars one payout and another by President in two thousand ten this isn't simply a matter of making amends about reaffirming our values on which this nation was founded principles of fairness equality and opportunity the question did the USDA to fix the problem city into a few wise say government officials discriminated against them before and after the black farmers' settlement so back to their story has Giambi was Dorothy in any wise found the farm they wanted in North Carolina in nineteen ninety one almost no one buys a farm without alone and certainly the wise is could not that meant dealing with the U S Agriculture Department and its lending arm then called the Farmers Home Administration or FHA good born it had on written system if you walked in FHA will bless the first thing they do was close the books and they said no to anything else from that point all this and didn't have applications if you got application when Tejada fill it up and in when you finally got a lot tanto ha oops money are our allies say all those things and more happened to them the loan officer in their county office Stonewall turn they say from the time they walked into his office in nineteen ninety one until their loan was finally approved in nineteen ninety six the loan officer said the Long retired I reached him on the phone I'm not interested in talking about that at all he told me do that and comes backed by the USDA in Washington declined to answer questions about the ISIS because Dorothy and pending against the department or someone else who is in a position to know about the wisest relationship with the USTA Carl Bond lives on his family's one hundred and forty acre farm on the edge of Windsor North Carolina the fall the operations of the main road where they used to live both Mom and Aunt Cece on bond retired in twenty eleven after thirty two year career with the USTA North Carolina back in the nineteen nineties when the wise were struggling to get their applications processed Eddie heard about Bond and reached out to him he was the only African American loan officer in the state I came to office is due sis me this application us a while yet and in us to our offices that you got it from the sea as we asked him he say you know we you owe an officer from the United States Army should be able to do it is that a normal thing for loan officer to say to decline to help a farmer looking for a loan no way was required and still is why the farm the assistant to have them fill out the forms bonds is he'd heard plenty about sitting on the wise is white loan officer from the black farmers he talked to Cindy came from the Good o' Boys back in the day while loan officer with Roman it to speed they notice a weenie some money and in when we as blacks wanted to ask there was a well all the money is gone I wondered was sitting on just being an generous in refusing to help the wise is with their loan application or was he violating regulations I called this guy name is Stephen Carpenter I'm a at farmers' Legal Action Group a nonprofit law firm in Minnesota that works on behalf of family farmers Carpenter says the requirement Carl Bond referred to that loan officers help applicants with their forms is based in law passed by Congress Carpenter reads from an agency handbook from the time were talking about USDA officials should provide information about all services to all people who ask that they are to explain all types of programs and perhaps most importantly in their own regulations state USDA officials will give whatever assistance as necessary to complete the application otherwise is filled out the form with help from Carl Bond but now their loan officer Sidney long told them the credit was for the wise is appealed to the national USDA office and won by this time the FHA has become the FSA Farm Service Agency the wise is told the state director an appointee of the Clinton administration about what was happening was sitting on the state director intervened and approved the wisest purchase of land it took a five years of Yeti would prevail so why fuss when God bless and make it stop you but the wise is troubles with the USDA were far from over they bought the land but like most farmers they also needed an operating loan to get up and running the hog buildings on the farm needed work new roofs and a kind of heavy duty curtain on the sides to block the winter wind their one hundred and seventy thousand dollar operating loan was approved in nineteen ninety seven that money was supposed to be released within weeks counting on that the wise is scheduled the building repairs for later in the spring they put down money on dozens of breeding hogs made plans to pick them up after their buildings were renovated but he says Sydney long the loan officer delayed the release of the wise is operating he drove the loan process out seven am Eddie had to call off the repairs but he had already committed to picking up his Hawks so by the time we got rid of going home this upcoming O handfuls over pregnant and I had nothing but open build and knock on wood floors there were no and I had that some rolls of plastic in no time to put mix of kinds of break the wind blowing in winter night in North Carolina often dip below freezing newborn pee comes out in a degree any concrete flow you talking about about four minutes for the last I had a little four hundred pigs if research for the wise is the loss of almost their entire herd was catastrophic put them in a whole day never dug out why the delay in releasing their operating loans they say Sydney long told fund Carl Bond the African American loan officer who helped the wise is fill out their application find that puzzling Velo of this social disadvantage of loan Fund so that's fun for certain kinds of farmers including African Americans and women there was no Sosa this event in many of the element that time of my oh so festive and is custom when it got fun I requested internal USDA document on the socially disadvantaged farmer fund to the Freedom of Act documents back up Carl bonds memory in nineteen ninety seven the year the wise is applied the fund ended the year with more than two hundred million dollars unspent by nineteen ninety eight the wise is had secured their farm and they eventually got their hog sheds improved but they had almost no Hawks now they had to try building heard again from scratch and make their loan payments Eddie says he went and complained to the FSA director about sitting on so he say aw called on counting until the bones I won't give you any Super that he's about as was the bones black as a good eye so call came that's how Carl Bond came to take over as the wise is loan officer even though Bond was signed other counties in his office was fifty miles away it was an extraordinary move by the FSA Carl Bond sums up the situation that he found himself in after most of his hogs froze to death in the winter of nineteen ninety seven ninety eight in a fallen god Horus Horus as it does have one on either so that's why they move into me and I had to do in service to own bonds extended the terms is loan and allowed them to make small payments on their interest payments they could manage while they gradually build back their herd this kept them on the farm for more than a decade is so cold sunny day for the the When I visited the wise of two thousand and nine Eddie was allowed to take a truck load of hogs to slaughter was this Lauderdale the process into chops on Israel's neck bone pigtails two years all did all the above the the the one I look at a P R C content about what I still make money is to visit the hog operation was in bringing of money my income right now is between a wife in an affair thousand dollars the year nonfarm income that income came from Eddie's Army pension Dorothy's retirement from Howard University and there to Social Security checks for the fat down all the unknown farm income helpless they only fool who pull him down roughly about fifteen sixteen thousand dollars The photo you can run the whole operation like this tight but the farm was alive Etienne Dorothy had the life they wanted as one of the few remaining black American farm families Eddie dream that someday he passed the farm on to his son in the farm yard Eddie calls his three dogs he's had them since they were puppies as I wrote a new cross design on my run was the smallest one brand G is the male spotters assistant this this is wrong the eye then Monday it's own Betty still had those dogs in twenty sixteen the U S marshals took them away even though they were pets farm animals the marshals told the wise is they took the dogs to the pound where they were given to three different families the the the the the you may be wondering couldn't the wisest had benefited from pic for a class action legal settlement with the USTA the answer is probably thirteen thousand black families receive one time fifty thousand dollars payments but Eddie says the loan officers obstructions cost his farm a lot more than that we were able to take it that she found another option under pick for it allowed farmers to sue for more money if they could prove discrimination more directly but for that the wise and show that their local FSA office had treated white farmers better you'll get the names of the subwoofer they didn't know how they tried suing needed to prove that similarly situated white farmers were treated better they couldn't and the case was dismissed the wise is moved on to discuss trade no matter the the the the during the dozen years he managed their loan Carl Bond helped the wise is refinance several times this isn't unusual Carl says lot of farmers with FSA loans are unable to make their complete payment at times because of a bad growing season or low prices the FSA works with those farmers if they can make a good case they'll be profitable the next year because they were just paying interest the wise is debt grew from the original three hundred thousand plus to more than four hundred thousand by twenty ten but Eddie was gradually buying and reading more Hawks Bon says there was reason for hope and his bosses approved his approach they reviewed everything that they don't know why this is our Synod of the art to Rolla and they will go through one of five to Conant in those days is something we find you get the correct and then everything was good the there were higher ups in the North Carolina FSA are taking a harder look at the wise says one day in the fall of twenty ten his boss the district director got a call from the state office in to see the farm plan that bond and was working on the the review it came back and share the one thing in the heart that we see she is a rare thus when district director said OK let's go and how fun is just to make this clear pond was a thirty year veteran loan officer and manager for some reason his superiors asked to examine if our plan wasn't completed yet that was unusual I think they wouldn't trust in my essay so they're trying to damage me remember this is twenty ten a decade after pic for the discrimination lawsuit that the government settled with black farmers but even then Bon says he often felt his work was questioned more than that of white officers and that scrutiny was compounded in the case of any wise you have the system or iPhone they might say Hey he's going to mess with this person were at the end they are out on their ballot that year but sigh when anyone dies heard that the draft plan was being questioned he was suspicious and angry he'd studied the manuals he knew a farm plan wasn't supposed to be passed up the chain of command for review until the farmer had signed off on it he wanted to know what was going on then Carl Bond called again a gated estate director want to do a fall this asset will you bring his way out you will use the masses today so they roll in the driveway and about a pile and Costco to do so as to who in the hill incomplete phone plan to stay so Kosovo's back to how id miss what I see why he said because my Husky to me to bring my cuz key was the farm loan chief for the whole state Eddie in Caro believe Husky arrange this visit after looking at farm place why in their draft the wisest said they had fourteen breeding females remember most of their herd froze to death in nineteen ninety eight and the government hadn't loaned him any since the show and he says a dozen years later my cus he apparently didn't believe he could have that many somehow he sent Carl supervisor to check in the state director and current tag along so cos i'm in a sounds do you have no call list count is nine and one hundred and eighteen page so we go to the second bill and of the fruit we go to the first building and hear that in most of the wrist weights out all my phone plan I was only this to take Eddie had just fourteen the last time Bond visit the farm so that's the number he put down in the draft plan since then Eddie had bought and razed fourteen more so when erect a solid as hockey's top Allah says his aim is wise I was told wrong information Jim Davenport the district director didn't return my phone calls the state director at the time was Aaron Martin an Obama appointee he retired at the end of twenty eleven Martin tells me the visit at his place but doesn't remember anyone questioning the accuracy of the Farm Plan A had hogs there we saw all the dogs but didn't know my stance was that I thought corals doing a good job he was following the procedures like I wanted him to we were not foreclose in owning any time after the FSA officials found everything in order on the farm Carl Bond turned plan for twenty eleven to complete a foam plane in Denver as the mid state regs son of owner things things fun with all the the the the but everything wasn't fine eighties ultimate dream for his farm come apart that's the whole thrust in the past bone but a pass em on Two and a mistake to do when we come back John V Wood tracks down the people involved in this case to find out what went wrong you listening to reveal the The The The The The The The The The Center for investigative reporting in PR X This is revealed now lets the eighty and two he was brought this small North Carolina hog farm in nineteen ninety six with the USDA loan by two thousand eleven fourteen years later they were deeper in debt than when they started labeling part of their losses on what they call destruction by their first loan officer who was white this second loan officer Carl Bond was an African American and help them out but when he retired back to work on his own farm they got officer who was white Giambi with pics of the store the few months after Carl Bond through time and any wise called the Farm Service Agency to ask who his new loan officer would be he was told Paula Nichols Nichols has worked with the FSA since nineteen eighty four were coming up own time to redo the phone so I go in
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Losing ground

The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX