The new bill removes a provision to provide loan forgiveness to Black farmers who have historically experienced discrimination.
The Inflation Reduction Act set to be signed into law by President Joe Biden features $3.1 billion to be allocated to “distressed borrowers” and another $2.2 billion to farmers who have “experienced discrimination,” yet removes race as a criterion for eligibility.
According to a report from CBS News, many Black farmers believe the lack of that provision reneges on last year’s Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act, which was set to spend $4 billion on loan forgiveness. The funding was seen as a first step to correct longtime discrimination against Black farmers by the USDA. The removal of the “farmers of color” language, they assert, will hurt them as loan forgiveness is opened to white farmers who outnumber them nationwide.
“That’s a broken promise and a broken contract between the U.S. government and Black farmers,” said John Boyd Jr., president of the National Black Farmers Association. “It’s a huge loss for us and other Black farmers who have been waiting on this.”
The Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color legislation faced no fewer than six federal lawsuits by white farmers, who decried it as unfair to keep them from the funds due to their race. The lawsuits prompted a federal injunction that kept the funds from being disbursed, The New York Times reported.
Boyd described the situation as another unmet promise to Black farmers by the United States, comparing the issue to the unfulfilled promise of 40 acres and a mule.
“It’s unfortunate that the administration kind of led with racial equity being a huge focus and, at the first sign of litigation trouble, they kind of turned their backs on how difficult achieving the work of racial equity actually is,” Dãnia Davy, director of land retention and advocacy at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, told The Times.
However, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the new law would give his agency tools to help financially strained farmers and bring justice to those who have been subjected to discrimination.
“The Biden-Harris administration is deeply committed to upholding civil rights and advancing equity,” Vilsack said in a statement, “as well as to doing right by agricultural producers, especially small and midsized producers and those who U.S.D.A.’s programs traditionally have shut out or not fully served.”
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