News Service


Gary Cornelious, Journalism and Mass Communication, (515) 294- 0197
Steve Jones, News Service, (515) 294-4778


AMES, Iowa -- An Iowa State University staff member, active in issues affecting both small and minority-owned farms, will join about 20 other agriculturists in a White House meeting with President Bill Clinton Wednesday (Dec. 17) afternoon.

Gary Cornelious is supervisor of media resources for the ISU department of journalism and mass communication and a self- described Boone County "truck farmer."

Clinton, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and a multicultural group of farmers from across the country will discuss issues related to small farm operations. Topics include market access, credit, civil rights and tobacco. The meeting was arranged by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and congressional members.

Cornelious is a regional officer in the Black Farmers and Agriculturist Association (BFAA). In November, he was appointed by Glickman to serve on the Iowa Farm Service Agency state committee. The committee hears appeals from farmers and landowners concerning USDA programs and loans, and it provides advice and consul on new USDA programs.

It is believed that Cornelious is the first African American to serve on the Iowa state committee. He is one of about 33 black Iowa farmers.

Each of the approximately 20 farmers meeting with Clinton will get one minute to speak on one of the four issues. Clinton will reply to each concern. Cornelious said he will discuss civil rights issues related to African American farmers and solicit support for more USDA outreach programs that would target blacks and other socially disadvantaged farmers.

As an officer of the BFAA, Cornelious is working with members of Congress and with Glickman's office to correct alleged racial discrimination within the USDA. The BFAA's chief concern with the USDA is alleged loan discrimination at the local level in several states.

"Local county committees, especially in the South, have delayed or denied loans, creating severe financial hardships for many black farmers," Cornelious said. Not able to borrow money, many blacks have been forced out of farming.

"We want to look at the possibilities that exist to improve the financial condition of minorities in agriculture," Cornelious added.

The Cornelious family grows more than 47 kinds of vegetables, including okra, black-eyed peas and other southern favorites, on their four-acre farm southwest of Ames. They also raise goats, turkeys, chickens, geese and lambs. Everything is produced organically, he said. Cornelious will take some of his okra with him to Washington.

"A White House staff person told me President Clinton is a fan of fried okra," Cornelious said. "I received permission to bring some of my canned okra as a gift for him."

Farming has been a part of Cornelious' and his wife's (Carol) families for more than 100 years. Gary's family has farmed in Missouri and Illinois. Carol's family has seven farms in northwest Iowa.

Cornelious has made four previous Washington, D.C., trips this year on behalf of black farmers. In April, he and 200 other black farmers discussed their concerns with Glickman and the Congressional Black Caucus. In July, he testified before the Agriculture Committee. Cornelious said it was the first time ever that the committee met with black farmers.

"I felt like a pioneer," recalled Cornelious.

On Sept. 12, he attended a Washington forum entitled "The Plight of Black Farmers -- Problems and Possibilities." The forum was sponsored by North Carolina Congresswoman Eva M. Clayton, a member of the House Agriculture Committee and the Congressional Black Caucus. She introduced legislation last summer aimed at eliminating racism from the USDA.

In a Nov. 17 trip to Washington, Cornelious visited with the research deans of several historically black colleges about their involvement in a possible multicultural-international farm.


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