Over the last century, Black farmers have lost almost all of their land and have been blocked from federal programs often given to their white counterparts.
"I want to reiterate that since 1910, Black farmers have lost 92 percent of their land, some 12 million acres, largely due to systematic racism," said MSNBC host Rev. Al Sharpton. "For our viewers, what does that discrimination look like, specifically where banking and access to federal aid are concerned? You and I have talked about this for years. You've been on the forefront of it. Explain what has happened historically and why this means something."
White farmers have had reductions in lands too, but only about 10 percent, according to Sarah Blaney, executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts. She told Raw Story that all the bill did was give equal access to their own government, which they've never had before.
She explained that farmers of color lose out on USDA-FSA loans because local officials are the ones who decide who gets the loans it can result in nepotism. Those county election systems shut people out from participating if they're not already in the system.
Mr. Boyd explained that the new measure rectifies a wrong for Black farmers and other farmers of color who were shut out of Farm Bill programs, farm lending from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and rural development loans.
"We've been totally shut out. And under the last administration, Rev. Sharpton, they pulled out $29 billion to primarily white farmers in this country, where black farmers didn't participate at all," said Mr. Boyd. "And when we put this bill in a part of the COVID relief bill, ten senators sponsored amendments to pull our language out. And Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is a very outspoken critic, said it really bothered him that we were a part of this spending bill. So, we've had an uphill battle for decades, and we've been fighting this fight for a very long time, and now is the time to change it. And right now, Rev. Sharpton, for the first time in history, we have two Blacks on the senate agriculture committee, Sen. Warnock and Sen. Booker, and we have a president and vice president that certainly are receptive to helping our nation's Black farmers."
The Pigford Cases established a grant to help give community-based organizations helping Black farmers funds to keep black farmers farming. So, over time, it was weakened, said Blaney. Now, it's obviously Black, Latino and Asian farmers. They then added white veterans to the group of "socially disadvantaged" farmers to farmers of color.
Blaney went on to say that even after Pigford, the FSA powers would put loan applications on the bottom of the stack or claim someone needed to check a box when they didn't and threw them in the trash. Even after lawsuits, "nobody, and I mean nobody was ever fired," Blaney said about those who continue to be disadvantaged.
One Black farmer in Comanche County, Oklahoma couldn't even get access to the loan applications from the FSA county committee and had to seek help from the state office. The racism is so bad that they'll simply send farmers to another county nearby because they don't want to deal with them.
When it came to Graham's comments to Fox News, Mr. Boyd explained that he'd talked to Graham, asking him to help fix the problems at the USDA level that caused Black farmers to lose millions of acres of their land. He hoped to address the lack for loans and subsidies.
"But as soon as we get justice some 30 years later, his very first words he said he found it troubling," said Mr. Boyd. "And his last part of his statement, he said, 'we need to check them.' He should have been checking us when we came by his office to ask him to help fix the problems at the United States Department of Agriculture. He should have been checking us when we were sharecroppers and survived by Jim Crow."
Boyd went on to say that the comments were not only insulting but a bigoted attack on farmers of color.
"So, I find his comments racist, and we're calling on him -- the National Black Farmers Association is calling for him to apologize," he continued. "Sen. Lindsey Graham, and we're making that announcement on your show. He needs to apologize not only to our Black farmers but to Black people in this country who struggled for so very long and now get a chance for a little bit of justice, and he uses his megaphone to play this race-type thing when he knows firsthand that Black farmers have suffered. When he has 6,000 Black farmers in his state, and he won't help us. but he uses his megaphone to try to deny payments to Black farmers."
The good thing that conservation districts can do, Blaney explained, is that they can try to be a bridge between farmers and the government to help them with access that they were denied for so long.
Watch the interview below:
Lindsey Graham insulting to farmers of color www.youtube.com