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Boyd on brink of $1.5 billion settlement for black farmers

SoVaNow.com / November 24, 2010
Mecklenburg County farmer John W. Boyd, founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association, scored a major victory Friday when the U.S. Senate by unanimous vote approved a $1.5 billion measure to fund payments to black farmers who alleged Dept. of Agriculture discrimination.

The case was settled out of court 11 years ago when the department found that black farmers had to wait three times longer for loans and subsidies. They were losing their land because they couldn’t get loans.

A federal judge determined that qualifying farmers could receive $50,000 each from the settlement.

It was the largest civil rights suit in U.S. history, according to CNN.

Although a settlement was reached, resources never were allocated to pay farmers’ claims.

“This is much long overdue justice for black farmers,” Boyd told CNN Friday.

The U.S. House of Representatives, which previously approved the measure, must approve it again before it can move on to President Barack Obama’s desk for signing.

‘40 Acres’ goes to Washington

A week after a 2008 protest led by Boyd at USDA headquarters and a march down Independence Avenue, Obama proposed allocating $1.25 billion to settle the claims. Although he wrote the money into his budget, it was not in congressional versions.

Boyd, of Baskerville, made headlines again in 2009 when he drove a wagon pulled by his mule, “40 Acres,” to Washington to bring the plight of the black farmer to the attention to Congress and the Dept. of Agriculture. The trek took 16 days.

“We are becoming extinct,” he said in a video made for the National Black Farmers Association.

He said black farmers each week are losing 9,000 acres of land, in large measure because they don’t get the same loans and subsidies white farmers get.

This February he toured seven southern states and led a rally at the USDA to motivate Congress to fund the settlement

Boyd struggles to save farm

Boyd became energized to fight for black farmers when he himself faced the loss of his land.

After completing his studies, he followed in his grandfather’s steps and started growing tobacco. He later raised poultry on his farm under contract with Perdue Farms.

In the late ‘80s, he applied multiple times for a USDA loan to keep his farm. His land at one time fell into federal foreclosure.

He filed a discrimination complaint through the local USDA office.

His efforts to settle his own complaint led him to uncover “an enormous backlog of unresolved discrimination cases, some dating back as fare as the 1960s. In many instances the discrimination was clearly documented and, more often than not, the problems could be traced directly to the agency’s thousands of local field offices,” the National Black Farmers’ Association website states.

In 1995 he began organizing to address the problem, founding the national organization. He led a group of 60 farmers on a protest in Washington in 1996. The organization has grown to 94,000 members.

Following the settlement of the case in 1999, Boyd started a new campaign to get the farmers’ claims heard.

According to the website, many farmers hadn’t heard of the settlement until it was too late to file.

The farm bill in 2008 reopened the opportunity to file, which NBFA did, initially filing suit on behalf of 800 farmers.

The campaign continues

Boyd in 2009 was appointed by then governor-elect Bob McDonnell to serve on his transition team. He was vetted by the Obama transition team as a candidate for Secretary of Agriculture.

He earlier served on the Virginia Tobacco Commission and on the federal commission, appointed by President Bill Clinton.

In his video Boyd said the average USDA loan to a black farmer is $200, while the average loan to a white farmer is $150,000. He said some people are still in place at the USDA that created a pattern of system discrimination in the ‘80s.

He currently is advocating stronger international trade partnerships that would help black farmers achieve financial independence.

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Mr.John Boyd Thank You and all the people who help to make history.God Bless You


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