The 23rd Annual Conference of the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) will convene Nov. 8-9 in Columbia, S.C., with a new sense of optimism that officials hope will buoy up the agrarian business owners for many years to come.
NBFA, which advocates on behalf of Black and socially disadvantaged farmers, recently emerged victorious from a protracted battle, waged in courthouses and in Capitol Hill chambers, in which the U.S. Department of Agriculture was sued for a decades-long history of discriminatory practices against Black farmers.
The fight ended when President Obama signed a bill on Dec. 8, 2010, authorizing a $1.25 billion settlement with the eligible Black farmers. And justice is becoming tangible for some 18,000 of those farmers, who recently began receiving checks worth $50,000 each, plus $12,500 to cover tax liability, in the mail.
“[This payout] shows a ragtag organization—if you stay focused and keep your eye on the prize—you can be victorious,” said NBFA President John Boyd. He added, “Anything for Black people has hurdles and roadblocks… justice is a slow process, [but] you just have to stay the course.”
Boyd, who, in previous interviews with the AFRO, has bemoaned the absence of fellow farmers who died while waiting for the case to be resolved said the victory is “bittersweet.”
“Checks are finding their way to the farmers, and you can hear the joy in their voice when they call to share the news,” Boyd said. “But we also hear the disappointment from farmers whose claims were denied.”
The USDA’s settlement with the farmers will be one of the highlights of the conference. The event will also feature presentations meant to boost the farmers’ success and offer other victories in the future.
“As we celebrate a thirty year struggle to victory for Black farmers, we must focus on the future. NBFA members must find creative ways to take part in all federal programs such as the much delayed federal crop insurance program to compete with large scale farmers,” Boyd said in a statement.
Workshops will provide information on USDA programs and techniques in the areas of farm credit and financing, networking, communications, skills, legal and social services, farm management teaching tools, international markets, and many more. Private companies and the Obama administration have also been supportive, Boyd said, sending representatives from appropriate agencies to interact one-on-one with farmers and answer their questions.
Most importantly, he told the AFRO, the conference features a youth track for students, which is meant to get young African Americans interested in careers in farming and agribusiness.
“We want to do like the White farmers, who pass on their legacy to their children,” Boyd said. “It is important for the survival of Black farmers.”
For a full conference agenda and other details, please visit: www.nationalblackfarmersassociation.org.
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