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To Joe Biden, Black farmers’ lives matter too

A surprising number of emails from U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden have found their way into my inbox over the past couple of weeks.

That seems odd. I figure it must be because me and a handful of other Canadians belong to an organization of agricultural journalists in the U.S. And with an American federal election around the corner,a full-court press is underway to influence farm and rural media there…or wherever.

U.S. farmers favour Republicans and their traditional hands-off policies – unless, of course, they need the government to give them money.

But considering Trump’s ongoing bungling, particularly the way he’s botched the pandemic file, Democrats are thinking they might have a chance to gain ground everywhere, including in rural America.

It won’t be easy. Trump has bought off farmers with billions of dollars, to offset the damage done to them by his protectionist trade policies.They take the money, but many U.S. farmers recognize these policies ae damaging the agricultural economy, not helping it.

Canadian farmers are feeling it. The Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO), the province’s largest commodity group, has created anpointed ad campaign calling on the federal government to help them survive Trump’s irrational policies.

“The Canadian government is standing by watching as farms struggle to produce food for Canadians, while the $36 billion President Trump provided to protect the U.S. food supply system is projected to increase to $80 billion in payments this year,” says GFO chair Markus Haerle. “Ontario farmers are not asking for handouts, they are looking for risk management programs to be restored. Stephen Harper’s government de-funded programs that protect the food supply and farmers from depressed prices and Trudeau’s government can fix this.”

You’ll notice no one is asking Trump to back off. That would be pointless.

But they’re hoping the dump Trump movement succeeds, as long as Biden isn’t as territorial as Trump, which some say he might be.

Biden’s camp is certainly strategic. Tuesday night,Biden reached out to farmers – most notably, Black farmers. A group called Rural Americans for Biden hosted an event tied to the Democratic National Convention, which included Dr. John Boyd Jr., president of the National Black Farmers Association.

The Black farmers’ group has 100,000 members. It’s led by the charismatic Boyd, who is more than happy to have a leading politician like Biden pay attention to the agricultural side of being Black in modern America.

Boyd has an interesting history. In 1979, when he was in Grade 9, his parents pulled up stakes in New York and moved the family south to Mecklenburg County, Virginia, to farm with his grandparents.

That’s about as drastic a change as you could imagine.

He eventually tried to buy his own farm in 1983 but found the national lending agency was cool towards Black farmers.Of 157 agricultural loans made in Mecklenburg County, just two were to Black farmers. Loan applications for local white farmers took 30 days to process; the same application for Black farmers took more than a year. The wait cost them their farms.

That led him to become an activist, start the National Black Farmers Association, and try drawing attention to their plight.

It’s been a long journey from there to sharing a podium in support of Biden.And the lending situation for Black farmers is far from fixed. They report still having much less success with loan applications than white farmers, and today, with the cost of farming soaring, access to capital is more important than ever.

They’ll be counting on Biden to explain how he’s going to help them and how he’s going to try to address yet another racial injustice that America must now face.

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