Some 75,000 Black farmers have grown weary of the battle they’ve waged over the past two decades for the federal government to provide them with a $1.15 billion settlement after they were routinely denied loans. But they refuse to give up.
During a rally on Capitol Hill during the week of Sept. 20 led by National Black Farmers Association President John Boyd—who drove his tractor into D.C.—he was joined by a contingent of peers who, along with several members of the Congressional Black Caucus and North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan (D), implored Congress to free up the money before its October recess.
“We want justice and I’ll drive my tractor—also named Justice—around the Capitol every day as long as I can, to get what rightfully belongs to the nation’s Black farmers,” Boyd told the AFRO.
“We’re at a crossroads and while many of the farmers who were initially involved have died, others have lost the farms and their homes,” Boyd continued. “The Congressional Black Caucus has done its part. They’ve passed two bills, [yet] we seem to have gotten stuck in the Senate.”
Hagan said she and two other senators introduced stand-alone legislation on Sept. 23 to ensure funding for the settlement.
“I have been working tirelessly to rectify this grave injustice,” Hagan said. “In the 1980s and 90s, when Black farmers applied for loans, credit and other kinds of assistance to support their farms, they were turned down,” she continued, noting that it was last February that the settlement agreement between the federal government and Black farmers was finally reached.
“This discrimination occurred, it’s been proven, there’s been a settlement now we’ve got to make sure it gets funded and is paid out,” Hagan said.
George Hildebrandt, 69, who traveled to Washington from his farm in Leavenworth, Kans., operates a 240-acre farm. He said he received an emergency loan in 1984, but that in recent years his property has been flooded four times.
“All I need is some money to raise my levee and to stop all of that,” Hildebrandt said. “We know the Congress is not going to do anything, so we’re hoping to get President Obama to sign an executive order, which is all it would take to pay us.”
Boyd agreed that an executive order would help expedite payment of the settlement.
“I have made the request to meet with the president to see what can be done administratively,” Boyd said. “We would greet that with welcome arms if we’re able to get that done through the justice department. But if we can’t, we’re at the mercy of the Senate.”