A Black farmer is speaking out amidst the legal battle over $4 billion in federal aid meant to help minority farmers.
Dr. John Boyd Jr., a fourth-generation farmer in Virginia and the president of the National Black Farmers Association, told The Hill he's been pressuring lawmakers and the Biden administration to help Black farmers in need.
President Joe Biden signed off on a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package almost a year ago, and part of that money was meant to assist minority farmers facing serious debt during a crippling global pandemic. However, white farmers alleging discrimination have contested the aid in courts across the country, meaning the money cannot be paid out to those who need it.
"It's a do-or-die for a guy who owes a couple hundred thousand dollars to the government," Boyd says, adding that he's been trying to get a meeting with the president over the stalled money. "They're saying they can't interfere with the courts is what they're telling me … and I'm saying that it's got to be something that can be done."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture told The Hill in a statement that it "continues to work closely with the Department of Justice to vigorously defend" the allocated funding. The agency also found that Black farmers own less than 2% of the nation's farms while white farmers own over 96%, citing rampant discrimination over the nation's history.
Boyd himself described the racial epithets and disparity he's experienced ever since he started farming at 18. The Virginia farmer was also the subject of a public battle with then-USDA agent James Barnett, alleging discrimination when Boyd was denied a loan.
"He was only seeing Black farmers on Wednesday, and he carried on with the discrimination like this is what he does every day," Boyd recalls. His civil rights advocacy also extends to eye-catching demonstrations, such as riding his mule to Washington D.C., and reaching out to lawmakers.
“We can't just be consumers as Blacks. We got to be at the table and a part of these companies making sure that we get our part here, too," according to Boyd.
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