Trump administration 'worst in history for Black farmers': National Black Farmers Association president

·3 min read

Democratic Senators introduced bills to help minority farmers this week, as the new Agriculture Secretary nominee pledges to “root out generations of systemic racism” at that agency.

For decades, Black and Hispanic farmers have said they were denied federal loans and grants given to white farmers. But this discrimination peaked during the years of the Trump administration, John Boyd, founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association, told Yahoo Finance Live in an interview on Wednesday.

“The Trump Administration has been the worst administration in history for Black farmers," Boyd said. "We have been totally shut out of the farm subsidy program, farm ownership laws, from rural development. We have been totally shut out of these programs.”

Government aid to farmers spiked during the Trump administration, reaching a record of $46 billion in 2020, according to NPR. And the prior year, America’s farmers received $22 billion, the highest level of subsidies in 14 years, NPR reported. But Black farmers say they’ve been left behind. In July 2019, the nonprofit news site The Counter reported, citing documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, that nearly 100% of Trump’s trade war bailout went to white farmers.

John Boyd speaks to Yahoo Finance.
John Boyd speaks to Yahoo Finance.

“We are hopeful President Biden will elevate our issues,” Boyd told Yahoo Finance on Wednesday.

Still, some Black farmers are skeptical of Biden’s selection of Tom Vilsack as Agriculture Secretary, especially since he previously served in that very same position during the Obama administration. Boyd says he’s going to give him a chance. He also hinted that Vilsack will be better for Black farmers than Trump-era Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, a former governor of Georgia.

Boyd told Yahoo Finance that he’s already spoken on the phone with Vilsack twice, telling the Agriculture Secretary nominee the changes he’d like to see at the agency and critiquing his prior stint there under the Obama administration.

“I expressed that he didn't do enough to help ... I'm going to give him a chance,” Boyd told Yahoo Finance. “I want to be perfectly clear, I believe there's a huge difference between former Secretary Vilsack and Sonny Perdue."

The history of discrimination at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is long and deep. In 1920, 925,000 Black farmers operated in the U.S., according to USDA data. That number plummeted to just 35,000 farms with Black producers in the U.S. by 2017.

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, a newly elected Democrat from Georgia, cited these statistics this week when he introduced the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act, which would provide $5 billion in direct aid to Black, indigenous, and Hispanic farmers.

Also this week, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey re-introduced the Justice for Black Farmers Act, which would aim to end discrimination at the USDA and restore lost land to Black farmers.

"Overtly discriminatory and unjust federal policy has robbed Black families in the United States of the ability to build and pass on intergenerational wealth,” Booker said in a statement. “When it comes to farming and agriculture, we know that there is a direct connection between discriminatory policies within the USDA and the enormous land loss we have seen among Black farmers over the past century.”

Bridgette Webb is a producer at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @bridgetteAwebb.

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