Watch: Black farmers are being exploited in America

John Boyd Jr. weighs in on a $4 billion debt relief program that was supposed to provide relief to Black farmers but was recently dismissed.

In 1919, Black farmland ownership was between 16 to 19 million acres, according to Feeding America, making up 14% of total agricultural land in America. In 2022, the number has gone down to only 1% due to systemic racism, biased government policy and inequitable social and business practices. The Black farmers remaining are demanding the pay that they are rightfully owed from an administration who made a promise.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it was accepting applications for its Discrimination Financial Assistance Program, a $2.2 billion initiative being funded by the Inflation Reduction Act. It provides financial help for Black farmers, ranchers and forest landowners who experienced discrimination by USDA in the agency’s farm lending prior to 2021.

But John Boyd Jr., founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association, speaking to theGrio’s Eboni K. Williams, had a lot to say about what he called the Biden-Harris administration’s lack of support for Black farmers, despite its vows.

Virginia farmer John Boyd Jr., founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association, shown in May 2021, had a lot to say recently about what he called the Biden-Harris administration’s lack of support for Black farmers. (Photo by Steve Helber/AP)

The following is a transcript of their conversation.

Eboni K. Williams: We’re back with more of the exploitation of Black farmers in America. Now, several of them have sued and recently received back pay after it was discovered by the U.S. Labor Department that immigrant workers, white immigrant workers, were being given more money than the Black farmers, and the Black farmers were doing the exact same job. It’s a disturbing reality for many Black American farmers, whose numbers are dwindling by the day. Still with us is John Boyd Jr. He’s the founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association.

Now, John, when you were here, we wanted to address some of the concerns. We’ve had this conversation, but we want to go deeper. Recently, we saw that a federal judge dismissed your lawsuit about the $4 billion debt relief program for Black farmers. Essentially, that was President Biden, including a specific element of that package that was supposed to provide relief to Black farmers. He reneged on that promise. You and Attorney [Ben] Crump and others filed suit, and now, it’s been dismissed. Where do you go next in this case?

John Boyd Jr.: Well, we have filed an appeal to appeal that decision in federal court. And I’m hopeful that the courts will take a deeper look at, I’m going to use your words, a deeper look into what really happened to Black farmers. You know, every time that we are promised something in this country as Black people, and in this case Black farmers, they find a way not to get us to the resources that are promised to us. 

We were promised a 120% debt relief, but that’s for every Black farmer who is eligible and other farmers of color. That means 100% relief, 20% to pay the taxes, and Congress repealed it under the leadership of President Biden. And recently, we just, we lost a big decision in affirmative action. People, Black people, are going backward. We need to wake up here. We lost a big decision on affirmative action, and the president says he’s going to dig deeper to come up with something from the stroke of a pen, from his desk, to help get around a possible on the actual debt relief measure for college tuition and all of these things.

We need him to use the stroke of the pen to help get around the issues that facing America’s Black farmers. And, you know, why wasn’t it the same outrage when this administration went back on his word to do that? We’re always overlooked and the fix problem in this country. And we were the nation’s first Black occupation here in the country for Black people. So I turn my fight to the federal courts, hoping that we can get some resolve there. If not, I’m going to take my fight to the upcoming presidential election and to let Americans know that we’ve been left out.

And for people on the Hill telling me, “Boyd, you’ve got to take this one on the chin, and you don’t have a way out on this,’ I’m going to take my fight right out here to the American people and let the American people make the decision on how we were treated as voters in this country, because we voted probably 99% for President Biden. It hasn’t been a sit-down meeting with the president and there hasn’t been a sit-down meeting with his AG secretary. I mean, come on, people. That’s a given for a body of people who voted in a block to support this administration.

Williams: Well, and also John Boyd, an administration and a president that said during his inauguration speech that he did owe Black America, to your point of his debt, that he owes the Black electorate as to the result of him even being the 46th president of the United States.

Something else I want to bring up is something you said in our previous conversation before the break here. You said that Black America needs to realize that we’ve got more work to do. Talk about how important it is that Black America kind of connects the dots, what’s happening and the mistreatment of Black farmers, what’s happening with the gutting of affirmative action, what’s happening with Black people disproportionately carrying more student loan debt that they will not get relief from.

In your lived experience, because you are a man of significant lived American experience, do you believe that what’s happening right now, John Boyd, is a backlash of what some Americans, some white Americans, some federal government leaders feel has been too much “progress” of Black folk in this country?

Boyd Jr.: I believe it’s a continuation, a slow drag now or takedown, might I describe it as. What’s happened to us as Black farmers didn’t just start with President Biden, where I openly supported him and got on early on, and took a chance with this president early on when there were many candidates in the race, I supported this president. From administration to administration, from Congress to Congress, we failed to fix the problem at the United States Department of Agriculture and its farm lending programs around the country and AG lending and the top 10 agriculture companies.

These are all issues that we are facing every day. We are those big names that are having doubt. You know, my number to talk about this, get educated on it, and to see how they can lend their voice. Sometimes, people, it’s not your checkbook, sometimes it’s your voice saying that I support the Black Farmers movement. We support their lawsuit. We support these Black farmers getting justice.

Williams: Well, listen, John Boyd, Jr., what we know is you are not going to take anything on the chin. You’re not going to take anything lying down, nor should you. And here at theGrio, we look forward to helping you amplify this fight. Thank you, brother.

Check out the full clip above and tune into “theGrio with Eboni K. Williams” at 6 p.m. ET every weeknight on theGrio cable channel.

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