National Black Farmers Association President John Boyd joined Yahoo Finance Live to break down the plight of black American farmers and why the Justice for Black Farmers Bill is important.
JOHN BOYD: Well, farmers are struggling. And I'll thank you for having me. And there's been a long pattern in history of discrimination by the United States Department of Agriculture. And from the turn of the century, our numbers have been dwindling. We were one million Black farm families strong at the turn of the century, and we were telling some 20 million acres of land. Today, we're down by the census about 45,000 Black-owned farms tilling about 4 and 1/2 million acres.
So the Department of Agriculture really needs to step it up right now, We've been out here protesting and raising the flag for assistance. And this past administration, Sonny Perdue, the Trump administration, has been the worst administration in history for Black farmers. Well, we been totally shut out of the Farm Subsidy Program, farm ownership laws from Farm Service Agency, from rural development.
We've been totally shut out of these programs. So we're very hopeful that this president, the current President Biden, will elevate our issues. And I had a chance to speak with him in South Carolina last February before I endorsed him. And he said that there would be much-needed change for Black farmers under this administration, and new blood, and new leadership.
ADAM SHAPIRO: Let's talk about that. Let's talk about that, because it's not just the Trump administration. I mean, the denial of lending and subsidies to Black farmers by USDA goes back decades. So this is a two-part question. How do we right that wrong, and you're opposed to President Biden's nominee to the Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack. Why are you opposed? It's a two-part question. I'll stop there to keep it simple.
JOHN BOYD: Well, first of all, the Black Farmers Bill that's out there now by Senator Booker and also the new Senator from Georgia put the-- a separate parallel bill out there that I believe it's going to help some of the issues that we are facing. So I'm really pushing that bill out there. Even as we speak today, there was a vote coming up 2:00 today that's going to be affecting us. So I've been on the phone all day today pushing that bill.
But to answer your question, I'm not opposed to his nomination. I've got two telephone calls from the former Secretary Vilsack, and we spoke in depth about what I would like to see some changes from the way his style of leadership, based on the eight years he was in there with the former President Barack Obama. When I was out there campaigning for the Claims Remedy Act of 2010 and riding my tractor to Washington and driving my mule and wagon trying to get assistance for Black farmers, I expressed to the former Secretary Vilsack that he didn't do enough to help.
But this is President Biden's pick. He explained that to me in a Zoom call, and this is who he wants there. And I'm going to give him a chance. And I want to be perfectly clear. I believe there's a huge difference between former Secretary Vilsack and Sonny Perdue, who said he didn't want any tokens or lazy people on the committees and things of this nature. So I think there's a big difference in style of leadership, and we're looking for big things from-- this time from Tom Vilsack. So we won't give him a pass. We expect him to do something. And if he doesn't, I'm going back to the president and say, listen. This is a guy you want there, and we expect to get some much-needed results.
But I also would like to add, Black farmers want fairness. We want justice. We wanted to be included. So when these subsidies and programs are rolled out by USDA, we want to receive the benefits and services too. Nobody's asking for any handouts or anything like that. Black farmers are hard-working people. They're dignified people. They're deacons and preachers in their communities, and we are very proud people. And we've been treated brutally for many, many decades by the United States Department of Agriculture. And this is a time for America to step up and get behind and help save the oldest occupation in history for Black people, which is far--
SEANA SMITH: Hey, John? John, real quick, because we only have about 30 seconds left. But I also just want to get your thoughts on the trade war with China and the tariffs that the Trump administration has implemented that, of course, has affected Black farmers, and it's really affected all farmers. What do you want to hear from the Biden administration specifically about that, and to what extent has it hurt farmers?
JOHN BOYD: Well, we need the doors wide open with China, because it's the largest trade partner for a commodity like I grow, soybeans. And under that trade war, we were devastated with soybeans selling for $7 and some change a bushel, so we need that market open and we also need new markets. So we're looking for President Biden to reestablish trade with China and open up new markets for America's farmers. And I'm for all farmers.
What we're trying to say is we want to be included in all of these programs and all these rolled-out programs, fairly and equally. Treat everybody the same, and you won't need a special bill to fix anything. That's what we've been saying, and the China trade war was-- really hurt America's farmers. It put the highest foreclosure rate in history for America's farmers was due to the China trade war. And we need to fix that, and open up permanent trade between China and the United States.
SEANA SMITH: John Boyd of the National Black Farmers Association, Founder and President. Thanks so much for joining us.