by Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell

Two local members of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association (BFAA) were front and center Monday to hear President Donald Trump address the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) Convention in Nashville.

They are hopeful that this “is just the beginning.”

VIP invitations were sent to BFAA President Thomas Burrell and COGIC Bishop David A. Hall Sr., after the organization reached out to the American Farm Bureau Federation to participate in the upcoming convention.

President Donald Trump signs and executive order
President Trump signed an executive order to expand broadband in rural areas during his appearance in Nashville at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Convention. (Photo: Patricia Rogers)

“We have a right to be at the table,” said Bishop Hall. “It was slave labor that created so much wealth from the land. It’s what our ancestors sacrificed and died for – that we could be a major player at the table with other farmers. We have a right. Farming is an integral part of our history as a people.”

Prior to the January 8th address, the invitations were sent by email and followed up with a call from the White House after the AFBF expressed the interest of Black Farmers to participate this year. It landed the two “VIPs” in the second row of the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center as the President spoke.

Walking out on stage, President Trump reportedly “looked squarely at Burrell and Bishop Hall, smiled, and gave his signature thumbs-up,” according to BFAA public relations principal Patricia Rogers.

Trump touted his commitment to the farmers of America and how he planned to advance their agenda during his administration.

One of the most significant policies is a new executive order recently signed by Trump for massive broadband expansion into rural areas of the country, said Burrell.

“The expansion of broadband into rural America is very important,” he said. “More than 50 percent of job applications are completed online, and much of our education system is based on computer access. Dropout rates and joblessness among young people in rural areas is staggering because of this lack of access. This measure will make a huge difference.”

The President stayed away from controversial issues, presenting an address that was largely well received. However, when he mentioned his intent to build a border wall, the comment drew some boos from the audience.

Burrell reflected on what he felt was unfair characterization of Trump.

“In the past 25 years, no other president has come to the Farm Bureau convention to address American farmers,” he said. “That includes President Bush, President Clinton, and President Obama.”

The senior President Bush spoke to the convention in 1992.

“People keep calling President Trump dumb,” Burrell said. “Well, I’ve never seen a dumb billionaire.”