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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