Black Farmer Takes to Tractor to Finally Move U.S. Senate

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Longtime Advocate Will Regularly Drive Tractor to Capitol Hill, Visit with Senators from Both Parties to Secure Black Farmers Settlement Funding from Senate. President Obama Reaffirms Support: “Important for Congress to Fund That Settlement.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Support Funding Black Farmer Settlement.

I am asking the Senate to act immediately to fund this settlement, people are dying before they see justice for discrimination

Washington, DC Virginia farmer John W. Boyd, Jr. announced today that he will ride a tractor to Capitol Hill throughout September to press the U.S. Senate and White House for passage of $1.15 billion in funding for the black farmers discrimination case settlement. Congress previously approved $100 million out of the total $1.25 billion settlement. The settlement is contingent upon passage of the total funding and therefore farmers continue to wait for justice.

On Thursday, September 16, 2010 Virginia, the ride will take him across the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge, up Constitution Avenue all the way to Capitol Hill. That morning, Boyd will visit with his Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, a longtime supporter of the Black farmers.

Boyd plans to make the ride each day the Senate is in session, until Senators recess in October.

The next day, Friday, September 17, 2010, Boyd will ride to the White House for a press availability. The following week, on Thursday, September 23, 2010, Boyd is scheduled to join with other farmers who will gather in front of the USDA and later hold a press conference at the U.S. Capitol.

Boyd, the founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association, has become a recognized figure in Washington, DC for his years of advocacy on behalf of tens of thousands of active black farmers as well as those forced from farms as a result of decades of discrimination by the US Department of Agriculture.

"I am asking the Senate to act immediately to fund this settlement, people are dying before they see justice for discrimination," Boyd said ahead of his trip. "These are documented cases of discrimination and each case needs to be heard and resolved."

"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have both told me personally, on multiple occasions, that they support resolving and funding this case," said Boyd, adding, "This is an issue the Democrats and Republicans agree needs to be resolved and that funding for this case has already been accounted for. I have heard from so many people around this country in recent weeks, including leading conservative and progressive figures, who believe this is a matter of national importance. Justice in this case should know no partisan boundaries."

Boyd welcomed supporters, Members of Congress, and journalists to join his regular tractor rides, and apologized to the public in advance for any inconvenience. "I’m sorry my tractor may slow things down, but any delay in traffic is small potatoes compared to the years of delay black farmers have endured in our pursuit of justice," he said, also noting that he has named the tractor Justice.

President Obama reaffirmed his support for black farmers at a press conference on Friday, September 10, saying: “It is a fair settlement. It is a just settlement. We think it's important for Congress to fund that settlement. We're going to continue to make it a priority."

On February 7, 2010 The New York Times editorial wrote that the government needs to resolve the "historic injustice" involving the Black farmers. And on September 3, 2010 The Washington Post editorial said, "The White House and Congress should work diligently" to fund the settlement.

Twice the House of Representatives has passed a measure to pay for this settlement, yet the legislation languishes in the Senate having failed no less than seven times. Boyd says the measure has bipartisan support in the Senate, and the issue has been championed by leading figures in both parties. The measure is fully funded offset, meaning it will not add to the deficit. The settlement agreement requires federal funding to pass before the neutral arbitrator process commences. This will ensure farmers have their cases heard.

Sen. Reid has previously noted, “It's often said that justice delayed is justice denied. The time for delay has passed. Now it's time for us to close every last one of these cases, once and for all."

Representing the bipartisan and bicameral support the settlement has recruited, House Minority Leader John Boehner has said, "This issue has gone on for almost the 20 years that I've been here, and it needs to be resolved.”

For more on the Black farmers' long road to justice, please visit http://www.blackfarmers.org and http://www.nbfarally.com. For inquiries or to ride along with John Boyd and Justice, please email farmjustice(at)gmail(dot)com.

Boyd is urging NBFA members and the general public to contact Senate leadership and the Senators from their home states to ask them to fund the black farmers settlement. To contact Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about the settlement, please call (202) 224-3542. To contact Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, please call (202) 224.2541. To reach other Senators, please call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

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