This is the second time the USDA debt relief payments to farmers of color blocked due to white farmers say the assistance is racially discriminatory.
A white farmer is alleging the debt relief program from the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill due to the pandemic discriminates against him because of his race. The portion of the bill is for $4 billion and to be used toward debt relief with direct payments of up to 120% of a “socially disadvantaged” farmer or rancher’s that has outstanding debt from January 1, 2021.
The USDA is reviewing in a case-by-case basis if other groups qualify.
In another case, A Wisconsin judge temporarily blocked payments in a separate lawsuit from a group of white farmers arguing the USDA’s program was discriminating against them and is unconstitutional. Four other cases have been filed in Illinois, Texas, Tennessee, and Wyoming.
In the past, Black farmers were forced off their land due to discrimination from the USDA. A recent statistic reported by a recent USDA Census of Agriculture, states the USDA sated there were 925,708 Black farmers, which is about 14% of all farmers at the time. Only 45,508 Black farmers, roughly 1.3% of all 3.4 million US farmers in the United States in 2017.
Here is a synopsis of the Ensuring Equity for Farmers of Color During the COVID-19 Pandemic:
For generations, socially disadvantaged farmers have struggled to fully succeed due to systemic discrimination and a cycle of debt. This struggle is exacerbated by a disproportionate amount of COVID-19 infection rates, loss of property, hospitalizations, death, and economic hurt amongst socially disadvantaged groups. The American Rescue plan takes key steps in assisting marginalized communities through a different approach with:
$4 billion toward debt relief for socially disadvantaged farmers to pay off burdensome debts that have prevented many farmers of color from making a living or taking advantage of opportunities to grow or explore value-added strategies.
$1.01 billion in funding to USDA to create a racial equity commission and address longstanding discrimination across USDA by investing in land access, outreach, education, assistance overcoming barriers to access to USDA programs, business development, and more.
Photo by Jed Owen