Monday, November 24, 2008

John Boyd Would Make An Excellent Agriculture Secretary

John Boyd, left, has been an advocate for the fair treatment of black farmers for over three decades. The black farmers have been locked out of receiving credit from banks, discriminated against in federal farm subsidy programs, and generally excluded from the normal channels of support that white farmers easily enjoy. Even Mike Espy, as Agriculture Secretary, was bamboozled by the Clinton administration (not supported though exonerated from minor charges). John Boyd has seen it all. And unfortunately the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not have a good record on civil rights. Appointment of John Boyd as Agriculture Secretary would help to right centuries of wrongs agains black farmers.

Who is John W. Boyd? Mr. Boyd, pictured at left with then Senator Obama, moved to his grandfather’s tobacco farm in Virginia from his hometown of Queens, New York at age 15 He completed high school and a few years of agricultural college before trying his hand at his own tobacco farm, then poultry farming with a contract to Perdue Farms on 200 acres, and now a mix of corn, wheat, soybeans, and cattle on 300 acres. But Mr. Boyd’s forte has been as a community organizer and civil rights activist. Since founding the National Black Farmers Association in 1995, Mr. Boyd has worked tirelessly from his office in town part-time, and travelled extensively. Select accomplishments:

Built up the National Black Farmers Association to a membership of 94,000.

Lobbied Congress on Capitol Hill to deliver on the Pigford Decision, which found in the 1980’s that the USDA had discriminated against African American farmers and ranchers in providing services, as well as lending, throughout its history. Unfortunately, many claims remained backlogged in the agency, and unsettled. Further, new discrimination continued to occur throughout the agency, where local officials and boards controlled access to USDA programs such as farm loans, crop loans, disaster assistance, and marketing aid.

Developed relationships with other community organizing social and economic justice groups.

Organized numerous marches and protest demonstrations in Washington of black farmers and their supporters to call attention to the needs of this voting constiuency, with the slogan “we have the mule, now where’s our forty acres?”

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