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'I see it like 40 acres and a mule': Why one Black farmer hears 'empty promises' in debt relief plan05:45
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Farmer John Boyd Jr., poses in front of his hay bailer at his farm in Boydton, Va., Thursday, May 27, 2021. (Steve Helber/AP)
Farmer John Boyd Jr., poses in front of his hay bailer at his farm in Boydton, Va., Thursday, May 27, 2021. (Steve Helber/AP)

Editor's note: If you or someone you know may be considering suicide or is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

A $4 billion program was designed to provide debt relief to farmers of color who faced discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2021. But a year later, the program has yet to pay out because it's been held up in court by white farmers who deem it unfair.

The holdup harms Black farmers specifically. And while the Inflation Reduction Act will allocate $2.2 billion for discriminated farmers, it includes no mention of farmers of color.

“I see it like 40 acres and a mule. Empty promises to Blacks and other farmers of color,” says Black farmer John Boyd Jr. He farms in Virginia and serves as president of the National Black Farmers Association.

Instead of saying “farmers of color,” the new law deems recipients “distressed borrowers.” The nonspecific language hurts Black farmers and will lead to them seeing smaller monetary settlements, Boyd says. Farmers disenfranchised by racism will be thrown in the same borrowing pool as farmers dealing with other forms of discrimination, such as age, gender, marital status and disability.

Boyd says President Biden promised to meet with him last year at the White House to discuss farmer debt relief, but that meeting has yet to occur. Those supporting Biden’s new law say that it’s on solid ground, but Boyd disagrees. Opponents of the old law argue it creates racial division, but Boyd says it’s not racist or unconstitutional to address existing racism.

“That's what these white farmers need to realize,” says Boyd. “We were the ones who were denied debt relief. For years, white farmers were getting debt relief with ease.”

Advocating for debt relief isn’t new for Boyd. He’s been working on a debt relief campaign for the past 30 years while white farmers have been receiving the money.

If Black farmers did receive the money, they would be able to keep their land, Boyd says. Some Black farmers are facing farm foreclosure — and some have even admitted they would commit suicide if they don’t get debt relief.

“This is a real issue that affects all farmers in this country, but it affects Black farmers worse,” he says.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide or is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741.


Julia Corcoran produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Jeannette Muhammad adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on August 17, 2022.

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