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U.S. Rep. Artur Davis

US Rep Artur Davis, left, and Tuskegee University President Benjamin Payton chat at the 111th Farmers Conference at Tuskegee University on Friday. Davis says economic disparities continue to divide Alabama.

The U.S. Congressman says black farmers are in the poor half of the "two Alabamas."

Decrying what he called "two Alabamas," U S. Rep. Artur Davis on Friday called on the federal government to help make the halves whole.

The 7th District congressman said "one Alabama" continues to grow on the strength of universities, the aerospace industry, banks and insurance companies while the "other Alabama" is the one "you traveled from to get here."

Speaking to hundreds of black farmers from throughout the region, Davis said it is time for the federal government to understand their plight and rectify decades of poverty by providing funding for health, education and agricultural endeavors.

Davis said parts of Alabama have "one of the worst health care systems in the western world, "that puts stakes between those who have and those who have not."

The first-term lawmaker was the keynote speaker at the 111th annual Farmers Conference at Tuskegee University which was attended by about 300 people. He has been traveling his district since taking office last month, pointing out problems and suggesting solutions.

TU President Benjamin Payton introduced Davis, who grew up in Montgomery, by saying " he is the king of person we need in Congress."

"He didn't need anyone in Congress to research poverty, " Payton said, He knew what it was about."

Many black farmers have left their land in the past few decades. Many of those who remain are older and have no one to pass their property to. That was one of the subjects discussed at the conference.

George and Mary Mason, who have operated a 40 acre family farm in Sumter County for most of their 62 years of married life, say they see a bleak future for many black farming families.

"Young people just don't seem interested in farming today like they used to, said Mary Mason. "Some feel there just isn't enough money in it."

Davis also mentioned a lawsuit against the federal government on behalf of black farmers who claimed they were unfairly treated when they sought loans, grants and other assistance.

An agreement was reached more than a year ago in which $50,000 payments were given to black farmers across the country. Davis indicated that many more should have shared in the settlement which stemmed from "systematic discrimination."

After seeking for a "show of hands from those in the audience who got a "single dime" from the settlement, Davis watched as four farmers responded.


Originally published: Montgomery Advertiser, 2002