My name is John Boyd and I am the great grandson of a slave and the grandson of a sharecropper.
In 1984, I bought a farm from another African-American farmer named Russell Sallie, who was forced to sell his property when the U.S. Department of Agriculture began foreclosure procedures on it. As a black farm owner I spent many years battling discrimination by the USDA, and fought hard for the passage of legislation which would compensate black farmers who had suffered under the USDA’s discriminatory practices.
It was a long and often lonely battle, until I met a young Senator from Illinois, named Barack Obama.
I approached Senator Obama and said to him, “I need your help with the black farmers bill.” He took an interest in the situation, and wanted to hear from me about the discrimination that black farmers faced. He genuinely cared about what I had to say.
After our conversation, Senator Obama became one of the leaders on this issue, sponsoring the Pigford Claims Remedy Act in 2007. Eventually, Congress passed $100 million in funding for payments to late filers and called for a new cause of action for tens of thousands of black farmers who never had their cases heard. But even after the bill was passed, we continued to face an uphill battle to obtain enough funding for the thousands of black farmers who had suffered because of discrimination.
As President, Barack Obama continued to fight for black farmers, and on December 8th, 2010, he signed legislation that would give $1.25 billion in compensation to black farmers. I had the privilege of representing the nation’s African-American farmers in the room the day he signed the bill. And when the President embraced me, I felt like he was embracing all those who were affected by the unjust policies of the USDA.
When I think about the day I met then Senator Barack Obama, I realize that he could have ignored us like so many other senators and presidents before him. But he did the right thing, both as a senator, and as president, and helped end 30 years of injustice for our nations’ black farmers. And is a clear example of how the President is committed to resolving injustices and moving our country in the right direction.
That’s why I am committed to standing with the President to pass the job’s plan and help get all Americans back to work. Because if it can be done for black farmers, I believe it can be done for the good of the entire nation. And nothing could be more important at this moment for the African-American community and for all Americans than to pass the job’s bill.