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Ask Anything: 10 questions with National Black Farmers President John Boyd Jr.

Posted August 4, 2009

Editor's Note: John Boyd Jr. is president of the National Black Farmers Association. His goal is for the federal government to repay thousands of black farmers who say they were unfairly denied loans because of their race.


How can anyone "prove" a loan denial was due to race and not other factors that would make it a bad loan? – E. Kerley, Durham

Many black farmers in the south, even perhaps thousands, were denied loan applications by USDA due to race (black). Many loan applications from black farmers were thrown in the trash by the farm service agency USDA. White farm applications are processed within 30 days. The average processing time for black farmers is 387 days.


Dear Mr. Boyd, what would a black farmer who feels that he was denied farm loans by the federal government need to do in order to be rectified or compensated by the federal government? – Annie Scott, Raleigh

If you filed a late claim in the black farmers case, please contact the law office of James Scott Farrin or visit the National Black Farmers Association online at www.blackfarmers.org.


Do you feel that having a "Black Farmers Association" polarizes people and thus continues the divide between races, much in the way that a "White Farmers Association" would? Why not have a "Farmer's Association" which could advocate legislation to benefit ALL farmers, not just African Americans? – Mike, Sylva

Not at all. The USDA ostensibly operated as a white farmers association for years. If the USDA remained true to its mandate, there would not be a need for the National Black Farmers Association


What services do you provide your members? How are you funded? – Chris Canady, Rocky Mount

We provide our members with current information on USDA programs. We also provide outreach and technical assistance to thousands of black, as well as other small farmers. We form Co-op's and farmers markets for our members. The NBFA is America's most recognized organization representing black farmers. We are funded by our membership in 42 states.


I'm currently being represented by James Scott Farrin and I've been approved for the black farms settlement, but they are telling me that they are still waiting on Congress to release enough funds for the settlements. President Obama said that it would be figured in the 2010 budget. So does that mean I will get money next year or will anybody really get anything at all? Will everyone that's approved get it or just a few people get it? And if so, do you have any idea when? – Jennifer Howard, Roseboro

You are represented by a very good firm, James Scott Farrin. I highly recommend other Black Farmers with late claims to get in touch with James Scott Farrin. Based on your question, you may be eligible as a black farmer late filer. It is true we are still pressing the Obama administration for additional funds. After the NBFA pressed the Obama administration during an April Washington, D.C. rally, they proposed $1.25 billion to settle the cases. The National Black Farmers Association is pressing the White House and Congress for $2.7 billion total to settle all 80,000 late filers. I will not stop until USDA pays for discrimination.


Do you feel there is a difference of entitlement between black farmers of decades past and the poor white sharecroppers of the same era, as both were denied access to various programs because of their status? – Garfield Johnson, Benson

I am sure others were mistreated by USDA, Hispanics, native American Indians ... all have followed the black farmers with lawsuits. It would be difficult for me to compare the suffering of black farmers to any other group who was discriminated against by the Department of Agriculture. The loss of land by black farmers tells a convincing saga. At the turn of the century we owned 20 million acres of land. Today we own less than 3 million acres.


Are you and/or your organization for or against "cap and trade" which will devastate farmers? Why or why not? – Michael, Raleigh

I support the cap on farm subsidies. In fact, I drafted legislation to cap farm subsides. Many large white farmers and corporate farmers have abused the farm subsidy program. There are real disparate figures. I invite you to read my study on Farm Subsides titled "short crop." It can be found by visiting www.ewg.org. The top 10 percent of white farmers receive over 1 million in farm subsides (grants) every year. The average subsidy to a black farmers is $200. Capping subsidies will have little effect on black farmers.


My dad is black farmer in Duplin County. He was part of the tobacco buyout program. He is now having difficulty getting the payouts as promised. He did take out a small loan a couple years ago and is only a payment or so from paying it off. Should this prevent him from receiving his payout? He is claiming the office will not sign for it. He needs his payout to completely finish paying off the loan, so his hands are somewhat tied. – Regina Hall, Durham

I lobbied for and supported the tobacco buyout for tobacco farmers. Your father should receive a total of 10 yearly payments. The annual payments should be direct deposit from USDA in his checking account every January. Please get in touch with me. I will be happy to meet with you for further details.


How can one contact and or join your organization. Also, do you have any programs that offer any youth participation? – CJ, Raleigh

Please visit us online www.blackfarmers.org and down load the membership application. Or call our office and we will send you a membership application in the mail. There are beginner farmer programs where young farmers can apply for farm loans. I strongly encourage any young person of color interested in agriculture or agribusiness to contact our office for more information on youth loans and grants.


As a high school agriculture teacher, I encounter many black youth who want nothing to do with my courses because of the term "agriculture." What advice would you give teachers (and students) about attracting minority students into agricultural education classes at the high school and college level? – Scott Robinson, Raleigh

Being a visiting professor and forming the John Boyd agriculture and technology institute, I agree the word "agriculture" in the black community is not popular. In fact, it has a lot to do with our past as slaves and share croppers. Farming is still spoken of in the black community in a negative way. Only time can mend the fence. Most blacks left the farms and moved up "south" as a part of the great migration for poor blacks seeking a better way of life financially. I would like to visit your school during black history month to educate students on the importance of farming and agribusiness and getting more blacks involved in agriculture.

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  • CrewMax Aug 12, 2009

    Racism will continue to thrive while there is money to be made from it.

  • ranquick Aug 10, 2009

    This just goes to show you that racism still exists and will never go away no matter how hard some try becasue SOME pepople will NOT let it go away. I personally had nothing to do with who, what, where and how it started with blacks and I personally do not think I am responsible for someone TODAY for something that happen ages ago, The past will never change no matter what you do, live with it people and move forward!!!!!

  • working for deadbeats Aug 6, 2009

    Thanks, Mr Boyd. You confirmed that racism still exists. Let us know when you've let it go and want to join the rest of society.

  • HanginTough Aug 6, 2009

    Just another whiny black person - poor MLK - this is not at all what he wanted - equality for blacks these days is just a way to keep the gravy train runnin' for Jesse and Al - if they wanted equality they would quit puttin' their hands out - get out there and do what needs to be done to get an education, get a job, raise a family w/o help from the governement - one blogger said black kids today are afraid of hard work - that is obvious everyday as young black men capable of getting a job would rather dress like a prisoner (pants w/ their behinds hangin out and too big white t-shirts) or join gangs or just sit on the porch collecting a check. Go through downtown Famville NC anyday and see what I mean - POOR MLK - his people still dont get it!

  • Bon Viveur Aug 5, 2009

    From reading these non-answers and obviously racist slant from his own point of view I have serious doubts that any organization run by Mr. Boyd Jr. will be taken seriously. Don't we have a black president? America is no longer racist... except when you are speaking of reverse racism which this gentleman seems to have in spades. WRAL should be ashamed for printing such drivel

  • livinggood2 Aug 5, 2009

    It took me several years to get a farm loan from the Government,Guess what? I am white,and yes I feel I was unfairly treated,but where can I go?I don`t fit in with the Race cause.I cannot understand why Wral loves to put a racist on.Just because I am white I have to suck it in and take it.

  • dogluvr26 Aug 5, 2009

    This was one of the more disappointing Q&A's on WRAL. Normally I walk away feeling like I've learned something interesting about an area in which I have no experience. With this one, not so much.

    A few things that bothered me: 1) his non-answers, 2) his own apparent racism, 3) the fact he seemed least racist and most human only when he was endorsing his attorney, 4) his pointing out what he lobbied for when it wasn't asked (self endorsement much?), and 5) the overall negativity and defensiveness in almost each of his responses. It came across to me as "they did it first" justification, rather than answers.

    I am sure there is a great deal of validity to his cause, which is indeed unfortunate, but I don't understand how taking on an "us vs. them" mentality and attitude is helpful at this point. Yes, the underdog should always have someone on their side--but not someone who causes more divisiveness. Disappointing indeed.


    Here we go again its a White and Black thing I guess next Rev. Jessie Jackson and the NAACP will be in this before its all over with. What a Joke

  • wrx44 Aug 4, 2009

    According to him, Black Farmers were denied loans...Now they want "paid" by the government. Since the money the did not get originally as they claim were loans...are they going to pay back any money they get now?......of course not.

    Why should the government (taxpayers) "pay" them anything?...

  • Sidekick Aug 4, 2009

    The main thing keep young blacks from entering the agricultural business as farmers. Hard word. Do you blame them? All they see is pro athletes, hip-hoppers and rappers riding in hot cars, with hot girls, wearing gold jewelry on eveything that can be seen, and possibly not seen. If Mr. Boyd is really sincere about getting young blacks into farming, I commend him for it. But I just think it is too late for this and any upcoming generations.