Cuba, U.S. Black farmers reach historic agreement

By Monica Moorehead, Workers World, 12 December 2002

Cuban President Fidel Castro met with representatives of the National Black Farmers Association and the biggest, oldest U.S. civil rights organization—the NAACP—in early November in Havana to help implement a historic trade agreement between Cuba and struggling African American growers.

This historic agreement received hardly a mention in the big-business press inside the United States or worldwide.

Pedro Alvarez, director of ALIMPORT—Cuba’s food import company—also met with the farmers. The trade agreement outlines Cuba’s commitment to purchase $10 million worth of soy, corn, rice and chicken directly from U.S. Black farmers.

Once the agreement is signed, Cuba will become the NBFA’s first foreign export market. The plan is to divide the payment among several hundred Black farmers. This will help bolster their credit rating to secure loans for the next year’s crop.

This development, along with other U.S. farmers’ efforts to trade with Cuba, is a slap in the face to the Bush administration’s plans to strengthen the 40-plus-year U.S. blockade against Cuba. Under a new U.S. law, Cuba is prohibited from making cash purchases of food items from U.S. farmers.

Since the triumph of its revolution in 1959, Cuba has always promoted socialist international solidarity, not only among the oppressed in the developing countries but in the imperialist countries, especially the United States.

John Boyd, president of the NBFA, which has 24, 000 members based mainly in the southeast, remarked on his meeting with Castro: He gave me his word that he would do business with African American farmers. We’ve had a lot of difficulty competing with the big boys [U.S. agribusiness] because when we bid on a contract they say they can do it cheaper.

Boyd added that this contract won’t make anyone rich, but it can help the bottom line. (, Nov. 14)

African American farmers face institutionalized racism on the part of the U.S. government and banks when they seek low-interest federal loans to purchase necessary grain and equipment to grow crops in order to reach some parity with privileged white farmers.

Black farmers recently won a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture for $600 million to settle claims for enduring years of discrimination. But the farmers are seeing very little of this payment.

During this past summer Black farmers held takeovers of local USDA offices in Tennessee and elsewhere to protest the difficulties they still face in obtaining federal loans.

Sixty Black farmers from 12 states took over an agricultural office in Lake Providence, La., on Nov. 26. After closing that office, half those farmers moved to another USDA service center in Oak Grove. They succeeded in closing that office as well.

We’re just trying to get justice, said farmer Eddie Kennedy.

The Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association initiated these two actions.