Expanding its work to cultivate and support farming culture for Black and Latinx farmers, the National Black Farmers Association announced its 2021-2022 Next Generation Black and Hispanic Farmers Scholarship Program. The organization works with small and disadvantaged farmers to ensure they are aware of and fighting for the resources available to them from the United States Department of Agriculture. Graduating high-school seniors who intend on pursuing the agricultural program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and will contribute to their family farms following college graduation are welcome to apply for the scholarship.
“Higher education provides essential tools, knowledge, and resources that will allow these scholars to continue their family farm legacy for future generations,” said John Boyd, Jr., president of NBFA, the organization that he founded in 1995 to combat habitual discrimination by the United States Department of Agriculture.
The NGBHF scholarship will be awarded to 25 recipients who fulfill the requirements outlined by the NBFA. The scholarship will cover tuition expenses for up to 30 credit hours per academic year and campus-based housing in double-occupancy quarters at a traditional hall. Also included are an all-access meal plan, mandatory fees, and up to $1,000 in textbook expenses accrued per academic year.
Applicants for the scholarship must be Black, African American, or Latinx high-school students who are farmers engaged in a family farm operation verifiable by the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency, Future Farmers of America, or Cooperative Extensive Service. Prospective scholarship recipients must have maintained a 3.0 grade point average on a 4.0 scale—or the equivalent—and fulfill the post-secondary education academic and admissions criteria. Those who are selected to receive a scholarship must remain committed to working their families’ farms following graduation from the college program.
Once scholarships are awarded, students must work to maintain their awards by continuing to fulfill scholarship requirements. Scholarship winners must be enrolled as full-time students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln by the sixth day of classes every semester within an approved degree program—such as agronomy, animal science, agribusiness, agricultural economics, applied science, grassland systems, horticulture, mechanized systems management—in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
During their academic careers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, students must maintain a cumulative G.P.A. of 2.5 or higher. Not only does the NGBHF scholarship remain dependent on a healthy academic standing, students must also maintain a positive presence at the school, meaning that they must not incur any code-of-conduct infractions, nor legal issues. Maintaining a strong presence within the future of the farming community is also necessary and students must participate in the annual Emerging Leaders in Ag and Diversity program.
According to a March press release from the NBFA, Black farmers in the United States have continued to face challenges and in recent years, there hasn’t been much progress to support these important contributors to the country’s agricultural industry. The NBFA notes that the number of farmers declined 60 percent between 1900 and 1974. This same period saw the number of Black farmers decline by 94 percent—figures that the organization pulled from the 1974 USDA Census of Agriculture. Coinciding with this downward trend in Black farmers, between 1920 and 2017, Black farms decreased by 43.9 million acres. In 1920, 45 million acres were operated by Black farms with that number shrinking to only 1.1 million acres by 2017.
Based in Baskerville, Va., Boyd, Jr., is a farmer whose roots reach deep through four generations of his family. Since the 1990s through the recent challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Boyd, Jr., has been fighting to ensure the United States government remains true to the commitments it has made to aid Black and underserved farmers. Most recently, Boyd, Jr.’s efforts have been directed toward the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, as he focuses on educating Black farmers regarding their loan and government-benefit options and holding the government to task by taking important steps such as testifying before Congress.
“It’s tough for all farmers, but when you throw in discrimination and racism and unfair lending practices, it’s really hard for you to make it,” Boyd, Jr., said on his website. “Emergency Debt Relief for Black and other farmers of color is historic in nature. I have been fighting for this kind of relief for Black farmers for over thirty years. This is long overdue relief for Black farmers.”
As the NBFA prepares to award scholarships to qualified students, the organization wants the public and other Black farmers to not only realize the previous failings of the United States government, but it also wants to encourage these agricultural professionals to remain informed. For many years, Black farmers and those from other underrepresented groups have been denied access to resources, such as loans, from the USDA. This shut out by the department is steeped in systemic racism that has created an inequitable agricultural industry.
By organizing Black farmers to hold the government accountable and cultivating the next generation of farming professionals through its NGBHF scholarship, the NBFA is securing the rightful space for Black agriculture. Students who would like to begin working with the NBFA are encouraged to submit their applications for the NBFA’s NGBHF Scholarship Program by the June 15 deadline.