December 9, 2016
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Black Farmers Head: Still A Lot To Discuss

 WILLIAMSBURG, PA - ItÂ’s planting time, in Mecklenburg County as John Boyd Jr. walks his land scattering seeds and thinking of the upcoming meeting for the National Black Farmers Association which will be held at the College of William and Mary on April 27 at 7 p.m., in Andrews Hall.

 

Boyd, who founded the national organization for black farmers in 1995, is planting soybeans. He will also plant corn, hay, and wheat on the farm that has been in his family for four generations. He has 300 head of beef spread out over three counties: Mecklenburg, Lunenberg and Brunswick.

 

While he will discuss last yearÂ’s historic $1.15 billion settlement for black farmers at the upcoming meeting in Williamsburg, the agenda is lengthy. Black farmers have a lot to discuss these days.

 

“Three escalating issues continue to affect black farmers,” said Boyd, who operates his farm with his father, John Boyd Sr., his brother, Adrian Boyd, and a cousin, Ernest Lambert. All four African American farmers work to coax crops from land that was purchased by his great-great grandfather, Alexander Boyd, a former  slave who bought the land and passed it on.

 

“The No. 1 problem is access to credit,” Boyd continued. “To farm, you need a farm-operating loan each year to plant on time. Farming is a time-sensitive occupation. If you plant too late your crop yields diminish every day that you delay planting.

 

“The second problem black farmers face is gaining access to good seed,” Boyd continued. “We’re almost forced to buy genetically modified seed because there is a patent on seeds. So you have to buy new seeds each year.

 

“The third problem black farmers face is getting good competitive prices for their crops and finding a buying station that is nearby,” Boyd said. “For example we used to sell our grain in South Hill but now we sell in Petersburg.”

 

At a time when Boyd and his relatives are putting down seeds and fertilizers, they are also eying expanding trade agreements between the United States and other nations. And theyÂ’re scrutinizing farm legislation as it winds its way through the halls of Congress in Washington, D.C.

 

First, there is the recent Republican-sponsored bill that would cut $30 billion from farm subsidy payments over the next decade. About 60 percent of all farmers currently receive no subsidy, while 10 percent of the largest subsidy payments go to the largest and wealthiest farmers, according to the Environmental Working Group. 

 

If the House Agriculture Committee accepts the reforms they would take effect at the beginning of the next farm bill. Boyd  supports capping individual payments at  $500,000.  

 

But thatÂ’s just one of several issues. He pauses on his tractor to stare into the distance. He remembers the troubling chain-of-events that led him to form the NBFA, a national organization with 90,000 members in 42 states. Boyd started the group 16 years ago with five members.

 

“People are always telling me they didn’t realize black farmers still existed,” Boyd said. “Everybody in my family has been farmers. Almost every black person in this country is only one generation away from living on a farm. We had no choice but to become farmers after they freed slaves.”

 

Like rich pasture land, the NBFA took several generations to grow. Abused by his county supervisor each Wednesday, which was the only day black farmers could schedule an appointment in Mecklenburg County, Boyd said he finally filed several discrimination complaints. The complaints  ended the abuse and jump started the NBFA.


STORY TAGS: Farmers , John Boyd, Jr. , National Black Farmers Association , Black News, African American News, Minority News, Civil Rights News, Discrimination, Racism, Racial Equality, Bias, Equality, Afro American News



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