The Pigford Scandal: John Boyd and the Nat’l Black Farmers Association
Abraxas of UNCOVERAGE.net continues her examination of the many characters and hypocrisies which comprise the Pigford v. Vilsack litigation.: This huge fraud on the American taxpayer begs for legal review.: We here at UNCOVERAGE.net have high hopes for the upcoming investigations by Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and the House: Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The letter is addressed to “President Barack Obama” and is dated April 8, 2010. The writer of the letter informs the President that “I stood with you on the campaign trail in the battle ground states of North Carolina and Virginia. I stood with you in Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.” As reward for his efforts, the writer requests the President to compel Congress to appropriate $1.15 billion “immediately” in settlement of an agreement which black farmers have reached with the Department of Justice. The writer signs his name: Dr. John W. Boyd, Jr. Underneath his signature, he puts his title: President (of the “National Black Farmers Association”).
Who is this person?
Well, for starters, he’s been featured on “60 Minutes”, Nightline, and CNN, and he also been ABC’s “Person of the Week”. The Washington Post has written on him. In all of his interviews, he states that he is an African American farmer from Virginia; but more importantly, he is founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association. That is interesting but one wonders why this qualifies him to write such a letter to the President? In order to answer that question, we must look at Boyd himself.
John W. Boyd, Jr. was born in Queens, NY, on September 4, 1965. At the age of 15, his family relocated to Virginia in order to manage the farm of John’s ailing grandfather. After high school, John went one year to Southside Community College in Richmond, than one more year (1984-85) to Clemson University in South Carolina where he studied agriculture before dropping out for lack of money.
In 1985 Boyd applied to the Farmers Home Administration (“FmHA”) for a loan to buy a foreclosed tobacco farm in Baskerville, Virginia. The farm was in terrible shape with overgrown fields and dilapidated farm house. A year later, Boyd received the loan and bought the farm. Within three years, he applied for another loan, this time from the USDA. Unfortunately, that loan was refused. This prompted Boyd to file a discrimination lawsuit two years later, in 1991, claiming the USDA official had “tossed my loan application into the trash can in front of me”. While it was being litigated, his finances deteriorated further; Boyd lost a lucrative poultry contract and in 1994 he divorced. He subsequently declared bankruptcy.
It was during this time, in spring 1995, that Boyd created National Black Farmers Association. The reason appears to have been his frustration over officials at the USDA and FmHa not answering his phone calls. “The first time I said ‘National Black Farmers Association’ instead of ‘John Boyd,’ people came to the phone, even though at the time it was only me,” he told the (Richmond) Times-Dispatch.” The creation of NBFA, however, did not keep his farm from being foreclosed in November 1996.
It was at this low ebb in his finances and life that Boyd organized a group of fellow black farmers to accompany him to Washington, D.C. where, on December 12, 1996, they held a demonstration on the frozen lawn of Lafayette Park across from the White House. The purpose of the demonstration, Boyd declared, was to protest the USDA’s discrimination against black farmers like himself.
Within days, President Clinton ordered an investigation and the USDA launched a ‘listening tour’ which resulted in a report appearing to corroborate Boyd’s accusations. Eight months later, an African American farmer named Timothy Pigford filed “Pigford v. Glickman” in the U.S. District Court. The suit listed 400 black farmers but the number quickly grew to more than 2,000.
Though the USDA and the Department of Justice initially tried to fight the lawsuit, they eventually conceded defeat two years later in January 1999 and the presiding judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman (a Clinton appointee), issued a Consent Decree on April 14, 1999. Despite the fact that the U.S. Census of Agriculture listed only 32,938 black-owned farms in the nation, more than 90,000 African Americans filed claims of discrimination by the USDA against them. Many claims were subsequently declared fraudulent but significant amounts were still granted. No one knows the exact amount paid out by the government because Judge Friedman sealed all “Pigford” documents. The lowest estimate given by the Congressional Research Service is $1,007,632,538. The true cost, however, is estimated to be at least twice that much, if not three or four times.
The awards in “Pigford” lasted from 1999 until late 2004, at which time the case came to a close. But in 2007, Senator Barack Obama filed Senate resolution 1989 demanding that “Pigford” be re-opened and more black farmers be allowed to file. This was approved by the Senate on June 5, 2008 with a budget of just $100 million. Obama, however, added $1.15 billion to it after he became President and, on December 8, 2010, he signed the case (now known as “Pigford II”) into law.
On the surface, therefore, it would appear that Boyd’s demonstration in Lafayette Park on December 12, 1996 was the impetus for the “Pigford” lawsuit. In reality, however, the true impetus began years earlier and by someone other than Boyd.
In 1993, the first full year of his presidency, Bill Clinton’s administration began laying the groundwork for the destruction of the single greatest impediment to massive civil rights payouts: the impediment was sovereign immunity. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as the Fair Housing Act and the Rehabilitation Act all upheld sovereign immunity; i.e., they put a cap on the amount of money which the USDA would be forced to pay to settle civil rights lawsuits. But on October 3, 1993, Clinton’s appointees in the USDA requested that the Department of Justice see if there was a way around this. The DOJ reported back that this was not possible. Their finding was corroborated on March 15, 1994 when four black farmers who had filed discrimination lawsuits were told that the USDA had “no power under existing law to recompense the complainants”. Clinton then requested Assistant Attorney General Walter Dellinger to look into the matter and, on April 18, 1994, Dellinger issued a memo reinterpreting the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to allow civil rights litigants to receive “monetary relief, including compensatory damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs, but not subject to any specific cap…”
In a stroke, Clinton’s administration had destroyed one of the two crucial defenses of the USDA against civil rights claims. Since this action occurred in 1994, it clearly indicates the receptive mindset of President Clinton in regards to racial discrimination cases against the USDA years before Boyd staged his 1996 demonstration in front of the White House. Thus, it would be safe to say Boyd’s discrimination claim against the USDA was not the reason for Clinton to demand an investigation but rather was the excuse.
It also would be unfair to credit Boyd with having helped “Pigford” win its claims against the USDA. The USDA lost because it was stripped of its two protections from massive civil rights claims; i.e., sovereign immunity and its statute of limitations. As we have just seen, Clinton’s appointee, Dellinger, destroyed the first with his reinterpretation of the ECOA. And in 1998, the Congressional Black Caucus destroyed the second when it demanded that Congress approve a waiver of the statute in “Pigford”. As a result, the USDA had no recourse but to settle.
Since Boyd appears to have lacked the power to either initiate the lawsuit or see that it triumphed, one wonders what exactly is the power of Boyd and his organization?
To begin with, neither he nor NBFA are affiliated with anyone else. Boyd, for example, does not sit on powerful boards (such as the NAACP, SNCC or ACLU, etc.) He is not a member of Congress (he ran for U.S. Representative in 2000 but lost). He also is not listed as a consultant or employee of any corporation. He does claim to have served on various commissions but the bulk of them were ‘transition’ appointments, i.e., temporary positions that lasted only a few months or even weeks, such as when Clinton appointed Boyd to his tobacco commission in the waning days of Clinton’s administration in 2000. All in all, Boyd appears to have no job save working on ‘his farm’ in Baskerville, Virginia and heading the NBFA; but even that claim has a caveat. The farm is not actually Boyd’s but his father’s; Boyd lost his own farm to foreclosure in 1996 (the month before he demonstrated in front of the White House).
By his own admission, Boyd works only part-time on his father’s farm. The rest of the time he is involved with the NBFA. Because that organization appears to be the sole entity which defines his influence; it therefore requires examination. For starters, it is not represented by physical headquarters, either in Washington, D.C., Virginia or anywhere else. Instead, it essentially exists on a website:
Websites, of course, can be exceptionally powerful; as witnessed by Andrew Breitbart’s eponymous website or Arianna Huffington’s site, etc. But the clue to the power and influence of any site is always given by the size of its staff and its budget. The NBFA displays neither. Instead of a vice-president, office manager, accountant, site manager or even a secretary to answer phones, there is just one lonesome individual on the NBFA site — John Boyd. If there are any other workers in this organization, there are no traces of them. For instance, when one clicks on the “About” tab describing the organization, the only person shown is Boyd. When you click the “Contact” tab, the only person to be contacted is John Boyd. When you click the tab to “Join” NBFA, the only person who will be handling your $100 check is John Boyd. (Note: It is telling that Boyd’s site accepts checks. Accepting checks as payment is notoriously slow and ineffective, which is why every well-organized site instead has options for credit cards and/or links to credit card sites such as PayPal, etc.)
Another thing one notes on this site is that there is no calendar of events showing conferences, committees, commissions and/or massive assemblies which NBFA has been requested to be a part of (a sure sign of its influence). Instead, as one scans the website, one notes that the only assemblies which NBFA seems to attend appear to be those which Boyd initiates on his own. These assemblies are quite small, the majority of them appear to consist of no more than 10-15 people. (In one instance, the ‘assembly’ consists simply of Boyd and a mule.)
One also notes that no calendar exists which shows speaking engagements for the president and founder of the NBFA. Speaking engagements for an organization are incredibly important because the fees they command generate the biggest source of income for that organization. These fees are not inconsequential, as proven by the staggering six-figure sums commanded by people such as Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger and Mikhail Gorbachev. Fees, therefore, are tangible proof of the clout of the speaker; the higher the fee, the greater the speaker’s importance.
Thus, the pathetic plea for speaking fees on the NBFA site is cringe-worthy. “Invite Dr Boyd to your next event or let us know what your doing in your area to make a difference. We can’t wait to hear from you.”
Leaving aside the sloppy syntax of that plea, (“your doing” should be “you’re doing”), one’s attention is drawn to the fact that John Boyd addresses himself as “Dr” (minus the period). As was stated earlier, the highest education which Boyd appears to have attained was one year at a community college and one year studying agriculture at Clemson University. It would be safe to say that this does not qualify one to become a medical doctor nor does it qualify for the Ph.D. degree entitling one to be called “Dr.”
Of course, Boyd could have been awarded an honorary doctorate by a university but he makes no mention of any such university on his site. This omission is strange considering that Boyd’s NBFA site goes to great lengths to list awards as esoteric as “recipient of the Legacy of Excellence “Keeper of the Flame” Award”. Indeed, he is so anxious to inform us of his awards that he even lists one he did not get — the position of Secretary of Agriculture (he was merely “vetted by President Obama’s transition team as a candidate”). Therefore, it is odd that he would not mention the university which awarded him the honorary title he uses. Under the circumstances, one can not help thinking that perhaps Boyd received his title as “Dr.” in the same way he received the title of “President” of the National Black Farmers Association — i.e., by his own deeds instead of someone else’s. This supposition does not do credit to Boyd’s veracity.
We pause here a moment to examine one of the awards he boasts of on his NBFA site; i.e., the “Legacy of Excellence ‘Keeper of the Flame’ award. As far as one can tell, this award appears to have been given by the website “A Good Black Man”. In deplorable syntax and punctuation, the site announces that “Mr. Boyd has traveled the world to secure trade agreements for Black farmers, He has visited several countries in Africa, Brazil, China recently Mr. Boyd negotiated a 20,000,000 million dollar trade agreement with the President of Cuba Fidel Castro.” Leaving aside the minor detail that an American citizen can be jailed for having any trade agreement with Castro, it is somewhat less than believable that the person who claims to have negotiated a $20 million agreement with Cuba could be the same person who pleads on his NBFA website for people to give him speaking fees. It is even odder when one realizes that Boyd makes no mention of this multi-million dollar trade agreement on his NBFA site.
Boyd’s personal website — John Boyd, Jr. — hardly burnishes his reputation either. To begin with, Boyd apparently can’t make up his mind about how many generations of farmers are in his family. His NBFA site says he’s a “third generation farmer” but his personal site insists he’s a “fourth-generation black farmer”. But it is the sloppy syntax and bad spelling on Boyd’s personal site that strikes one. For example, this is the paragraph from his ‘biography’, (underlined words are exactly as Boyd’s site spells them): “He discussed the plight of black farmers with leadership in the House of Representatives in an early campaign in the 1990?s tha resulted in the conbressional tolling of the statute of imitation on federal dicrimination cases involving black farmers.” One finds it difficult to credit a site or its founder with professionalism if such misspellings as this are displayed.
Boyd’s confusion as to whether he is a third or fourth generation black farmer extends also to his apparent confusion about the number of black farmers in general. Though the 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture counted 32,938 black-owned farms in all of the United States, Boyd stresses repeatedly in the CNN interview of November 20, 2010 (posted on his NBFA site) that the number of black farmers applying for discrimination claims in “Pigford” is “going to be nearly 80,000 black farmers that have to go through this process…” (It does no credit to the research skills of CNN interviewer, Fredricka Whitfield, to see her accept this inaccurate number without question when its inaccuracy could have been discovered by a Google search of less than 20 seconds.)
Boyd’s less than professional demeanor before a video is repeated in his own taped appearance posted on the NFBA site. It is dated October 2, 2010 and features him seated alone in front of the camera exhorting black farmers to vote on November 2nd for candidates who support “black farmers’ claims”. The speech he gives is rambling and disjointed (interspersed with videos of him speaking to rallies in the snow and leading a mule down a sunny street) as he repeatedly requests viewers to vote for the candidates who have supported the “Pigford” claim. Unfortunately, however, Boyd does not say who these candidates are, which is puzzling since the video clearly states he’s been to Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and “up the east coast to Washington, D.C.” in the service of spreading awareness of this claim to the public. Since the main focus of Boyd’s life since his 1996 demonstration in front of the White House has been the “Pigford” lawsuit and the plight of black farmers, and since he claims to have met President Clinton, testified before Congress and to have met with the Congressional Black Caucus, one would expect that after fourteen years he would have gained at least some knowledge of which politicians supported “black farmers’ claims” and which did not. However, in his video, he gives no names of politicians for his viewers to vote for. Instead of posting a spread sheet on his site listing the names and districts of all those politicians favorable to the claims of black farmers, he instead tells his viewers to call their politicians themselves. And, if they do not know who their politicians are, Boyd tells them to look for campaign signs to tell them who’s running for office. Such a video performance can not help striking one as amateur.
With this knowledge of Boyd, we now return to his April 8, 2010 letter to President Obama. The first glance reveals the letter’s poor syntax as well as the sloppy typing (sentences cut off midway, leaving many lines with a single word before skipping down to the line below, etc.). But going past that, one concentrates on the gist of Boyd’s letter. “I stood with you on the campaign trail in the battle ground states of North Carolina and Virginia. I stood with you in Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.” In other words, Boyd implies that he rallied vast numbers of voters in 12 states which enabled Obama to be elected President. That claim, however, does not stand up to scrutiny.
To begin with, the rallying of voters in 12 states — or even in one state — requires extraordinary organizational skills and discipline. If Boyd had rallied vast numbers of voters for President Obama in 2008, than Boyd would have had to have had access to all the names, phone and fax numbers, email addresses and mailing addresses of all the various politicians and voter registration officials, not to mention the names and addresses of the attendant district heads, Chamber of Commerce members, local and state heads of the party, ward bosses, etc. One must also have access to phone banks, photocopiers, computers, temporary offices, transportation, video equipment, food and supplies to coordinate the gathering of these vast numbers of voters in just one single state, let alone twelve. This clearly is not an accomplishment which a single person can do all by himself.
Yet, the problem remains that the National Black Farmers Association appears to be a single person organization; one which Boyd operates in a manner which fails to inspire confidence in his organizational skills. It is a little difficult to accept Boyd’s implication that in 2008 he organized voters in twelve states for the President when in 2010 Boyd’s video attempt to organize voters consists mainly of his telling viewers to look at the signs in their neighborhood to find out who their politicians are.
In any case, facts clearly suggest that Obama’s success in 2008 was not because of Boyd “standing with him” on the campaign trail but instead because of a political move which Obama made on his own. I am referring to the Senate resolution Obama authored on August 3, 2007. At that time, Obama was trailing Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination for President. Her lead was due to her huge popularity amongst black voters who’d given her their support because of her husband’s part in enabling the “Pigford” lawsuit. At the time of the 2007 primaries, this lawsuit had been over for nearly three years (the last judgments were given in September 2004); but on August 3, 2007, Obama changed all that. In a bold move, he authored S.1989 which called for “Pigford” to be re-opened and more black farmers to be allowed to submit claims. This move prompted the “The Hill” (D.C.’s daily Congressional newspaper) to predict that Obama’s resolution “could give him a boost in Democratic primaries in South Carolina and other states in the South.” Their prediction proved correct. Black voters swarmed to Obama’s side and in the first major vote in the south — the South Carolina primary in January, 2008 — Obama convincingly beat Hillary and surged into the lead for the nomination.
It therefore seems irrefutable that Obama’s political triumph in the southern states was a result of his own political strategy and not because of Boyd “standing with” him. Therefore, Boyd’s claims and demand in his April 8, 2010 letter appear to be out of place.
These then are the facts about John W. Boyd, Jr. and his organization. While it is clear that Boyd feels that he and his National Black Farmers Association have enormous political clout, the facts would suggest that this ‘clout’ exists more in Boyd’s hyperbole than anywhere else.
 “Answers” website: http://www.answers.com/topic/john-boyd-1
 “Harvest of Lies”, Louis T. March, Representative Government Press, 2004, Page 41.
 Ibid, footnote, Pages 41-42.
 “Harvest of Lies”, Louis T. March, Representative Government Press, Page 41.
 Ironically, Boyd never received “Pigford” payments; instead, he settled his 1991 lawsuit against the USDA for an undisclosed amount in 1997.
 “As Champion of Black Farmers, Obama Could Win The Southern Votes”, Ian Swanson and Kevin Bogardus, “The Hill”, September 19, 2007.
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