Black US Farmers Waiting For Billions With Promised Debt Relief

There was a time black The farm prospered.

By 1910, just two generations from slavery, black farmers had accumulated more than 16 million acres of land, accounting for about 14 percent of the farmers. The fruits of their labor have fed much of America.

Currently, their area is less than 4.7 million acres. Black farms in the United States plummeted from 925,000 to less than 36,000, according to the latest USDA farm census. And only about one in 100 farmers is black.

What’s wrong?

They were able to overcome the broken promise of “40 acres and mules” to the newly released slaves — the military order was later revoked. But over and over again over the last century, they faced obstacles one after another because of their race.

Lenders — the chief of which USDA — often refused to give them money and often rushed to foreclosure. Suppliers and customers undercut them. law The collapse of inheritance led to the collapse of houses.

Currently, the government wants to compensate colored farmers by providing billions of dollars in debt relief. However, the judge put the money on hold in the face of a proceeding filed by a white farmer who claimed the program was unfair — reverse discrimination.

The descendants of today’s black peasants and those who have lost their interests claim that they were victims of fraud:

A Virginia farmer who barely managed to keep part of his farm when USDA threatened to sell it at auction. NS Kansas A man who lost the land where his grandparents once built a house. NS Arkansas A farmer who clasps it with a thread and prays for federal assistance will soon come.

It was racism, says farmer John Wesley Boyd Jr. And that is still the case.

“I think discrimination is still widespread. I think it’s done in a much more subtle way,” says Boyd.


Boyd was only 18 years old when he undertook an existing USDA loan when he bought his first farm in the early 1980s. He says stepping into a local USDA office was like a return to the Jim Crow era. The black farmer oversees the account and was able to get an appointment with a local lender only one day a week. This became known as Black Wednesday.

Boyd endured racial slurs. The Loan Officer once spit on him tobacco juice — he accidentally missed a spit can, officials claim. At another time, Boyd saw the official destroy his application and throw it in the trash.

In 1996, the USDA took only 30 days to seize part of Virginia’s farmland. The department then auctioned the remaining 110 acres.

Boyd joined other black farmers in a protest in Washington, linking a mule named 40 acres to the White House gates. Less than a week later, then Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman declared a moratorium on farm foreclosure. Boyd had just enough time to save his farm.

According to a document from USDA’s internal review, investigators found that his business loan request had not been processed for years, despite explicit instructions from the mayor of a government agency. He also found that his account was improperly referred to by the credit bureau as overdue when it should be rebuilt, deepening his financial difficulties.

These types of practices prompted approval of a groundbreaking settlement in the Pigford v. Glickman proceedings filed by black farmers in 1999. USDA paid more than $ 2.4 billion, but state taxes eroded recovery, debt relief was incomplete, and the settlement did not solve the problems faced by a few farmers.

A government lawyer said that between 2006 and 2016, black farmers filed with the court that they were subject to 13% of USDA foreclosures, even though they received less than 3% of direct loans. rice field.


Hiding in the vast plains of Kansas is a remnant of what was once the bustling black settlement of Nicodemus. Just a few miles from the town is 200 acres of land where Theodore Bernard Bates’ grandparents once built their homes.

A black farmer and his father bought a family home in 1970, when they received a loan from a production credit union in Stockton, Kansas.

Bates, one of the former plaintiffs in the Pigford proceedings, said the USDA farm loan agency even refused to apply for them. He received “not a penny” from the settlement, as he says.

Three years before the death of the former president of the Production Credit Union, he vowed in a 2012 oath statement that he had plans to “remove Bates from agriculture.” Elvin D. Keiswetter said the lender’s board of directors decided to “foreclose even if they lose money” rather than take Bates’ money, whether or not it was paid in a notebook.

After they took everything, Bates says the family was forced to go to food stamps to survive.

USDA was not responsible for all the misfortunes of black peasants. Other structural obstacles were also their victims. One is the family land, known as the “property of the heirs,” which is handed over to several relatives who survived without a will.

Result: Lack of access to money, as lenders are usually reluctant to expand credit without explicit ownership of the land. Congress was approved in the wording of the 2018 Farm Bill to facilitate lending to those farmers. But it wasn’t until this year that USDA actually funded a $ 67 million heir re-lending program to solve land ownership and inheritance issues.

USDA spokeswoman Kate Waters says the agency is working to eradicate systematic racism and reduce barriers to access to services. She says the department plans to set up a stock committee later this year to identify and fix the problem.

Meanwhile, Congress approved $ 4 billion in debt relief for 16,000 colored farmers in March as part of a $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package.

White farmers have filed proceedings in Florida, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Texas, Wyoming, Illinois, and Minnesota. The program was canceled in June due to a national provisional injunction.

Sid Miller of the Texas Agricultural Commission, who is suing from a personal standpoint as a farmer, argues that debt relief is unconstitutional because it excludes white farmers based on race and ethnicity.

“That’s totally wrong,” Miller said.

However, the minority of farmers still suffers from disproportionateness. As of May 31, 11% of white farmers were delinquent in government agricultural loans, compared to 37.9% of black borrowers, 14.6% of Asian borrowers, and India in the United States, according to court documents. Borrowers were 17.4% and Hispanic borrowers were 68%.

For Abraham Carpenter, a 59-year-old black farmer whose family grows fruits and vegetables near Grady, Arkansas, the injunction says he must wait for a loan of about $ 200,000 and expect help. Means

“I’ve seen really, really hard times, but thanks to God’s blessings, mercy, and grace, I’ve always survived …” says Carpenter. “So I’m not saying I’m going to get angry. I’ll do my best and pray a little more.”


Hegemann reported from Belle Plaine, Kansas.

Black US Farmers Waiting For Billions With Promised Debt Relief

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