By MINNIE MILLER, T&D Correspondent
BAMBERG -- A small group of area residents attended a
meeting Friday at the Bamberg Civic Center to learn more
about Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama's
plan to help support rural communities in South Carolina .
The main speaker was Dr. John Boyd , president of the National
Black Farmers Association. Representatives from Obama's
campaign offices in Orangeburg, Columbia and Washington ,
D.C. were also on hand.
Elizabeth Wilkins from Obama's Orangeburg office at 1168
Magnolia Street office opened the meeting with a brief
summary of the Black Farmers Bill. In February, Obama joined
his colleague, Sen. Charles "Chuck" Grassley of Iowa , in
introducing S. 515, the Pigford Claims Remedy Act of 2007.
The bill provided a mechanism for the determination on the
merits of the claims of claimants who met the class criteria in a
civil action relating to racial discrimination by the Department
of Agriculture but who were denied that determination.
The bill re-established the right of those plaintiffs who filed
within the court-ordered late filing period to file a claim and
receive a determination on the merits of their cases, according
"Obama was not afraid to stand up for black farmers when other
members of Congress shied away from other issues like
discrimination that occurred at the hands of the USDA,"
Wilkins said. "He's a man that not only wants us to preserve our
legacy but also wants us to grow - wants rural America to see a
Wilkinson introduced Boyd as a man who has committed his
life to advocacy on behalf of African-American farmers and
minorities. In a statement released Dec. 14, Boyd commented
on the Senate's passage of the Farm Bill (H.R. 2419).
"The Farm Bill includes a provision that will allow over 74,000
black farmers and their families to have their cases heard based
on merits," Boyd said. "We appreciate Sen. Obama's leadership
on the issue and sponsoring the legislation in the Farm Bill."
Boyd said he sees in Obama the vision, leadership ability and
the will for change the country needs.
"We're at a time now when we need change, Boyd said. "We
have a war that's pretty much broke the country, $3 gas prices,
people not working, and you can call it what you want, but my
definition is a recession," Boyd said.
For decades, African-American farmers have been struggling
with the United States Department of Agriculture trying to get
operating loans, farm ownership loans, farm equipment loans,
"It's an issue the media overlooks," Boyd said, "putting it on
page A17 instead of on page A1."
Obama has already stepped up and done some positive things
for the black farmers by sponsoring the legislation and sticking
with it, Boyd said. He emphasized the need for volunteers to get
aboard the campaign and spread the word and (Obama's)
"The best advertising in the world is word of mouth, especially
among African-Americans," Boyd said. "It's our job to get out
there and be Barack Obama foot soldiers."
The National Black Farmers Association was founded in 1995.
Today the NBF has more than 94,000 members.