The Agriculture Department is taking applications from farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners for a share of a $2.2 billion fund to compensate victims of discrimination in USDA farm lending programs.
The 2023 farm bill should gradually scale up federal funding for organic agriculture research and extension to $100 million a year, said the National Organic Coalition on Tuesday. The alliance of farm, environment and consumer groups also said the USDA should dedicate $75 million a year to developing seeds and animal breeds that are adapted to regional climates and soils.
Jewel Bronaugh, the first Black person to serve as Agriculture deputy secretary, said on Thursday that she would leave the USDA at the end of February “so I can spend more time with my family.” Bronaugh, who oversees the USDA’s day-to-day operations, would be the first high-level Biden appointee to depart the agency.
The government must honor its 2021 offer of $4 billion in loan forgiveness to Black and other socially disadvantaged farmers, even though Congress repealed the aid program this summer, said a class action lawsuit filed on Wednesday. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who filed suit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, likened the situation to the loss of assistance to Black farmers after the Civil War.
A congressionally created $3.1 billion debt relief program for financially distressed farmers who borrowed money through USDA programs could be in place within weeks, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday. Speed is vital, he said, because a moratorium on debt collections and foreclosures could expire in October.
The congressionally approved Equity Commission that will address racial discrimination at the USDA will have Arturo Rodriguez, former president of the United Farm Workers union, as one of its leaders, announced the Agriculture Department on Thursday.
Stymied by lawsuits that contend USDA debt relief for farmers of color is actually reverse discrimination, House Democrats proposed an alternative: full or partial forgiveness of USDA loans to limited-resource farmers. The multi-billion-dollar proposal, which does not mention race, is directed toward economically distressed farmers and ranchers in high-poverty areas.
Deputy Agriculture Secretary Jewel Bronaugh will co-chair a congressionally approved Equity Commission to address racial discrimination within the USDA and its programs, announced the Agriculture Department. The USDA has been called "the last plantation" because of racial bias in its operations; it paid $2.2 billion to Black farmers and their descendants in the so-called Pigford settlements of 1999 and 2010.
Lawsuits to block $4 billion in loan forgiveness for minority farmers show a lack of historical awareness, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the BIO online convention on Wednesday. "It's a wonder where those farmers were over the last 100 years, when their Black counterparts were being discriminated against and didn't hear a peep from white farmers about how unfortunate that circumstance was."
A dozen white farmers "have established a strong likelihood" that a loan forgiveness program for minority farmers is unconstitutional, said the federal judge hearing the lawsuit in Green Bay, Wisconsin. District judge William Griesbach issued a nationwide order blocking debt-relief payments by USDA while he decides — possibly next week — whether to issue an injunction against the program enacted by Congress in March.
Socially disadvantaged farmers will begin receiving letters this week alerting them of a Biden administration program to pay off loans they owe to the USDA — "historic debt relief" in the words of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Loan forgiveness could total $4 billion by the time, later this year, the government retires bank loans made to minority farmers with USDA loan guarantees.
With Texas agriculture commissioner Sid Miller as the plaintiff, a Trump-aligned legal group on Tuesday challenged the $4 billion debt-relief plan approved by Congress for Black and minority farmers, saying it was unconstitutional. "Americans of all races and ethnicities must have the opportunity to receive" USDA loan forgiveness, said America First Legal Foundation in announcing the suit. No paywall
Black farmers "don't have access to the same markets our white farmers have," said House Agriculture chairman David Scott, but the tax code could put them on equal footing. Scott is working on legislation to offer tax incentives to processors and other companies if they buy crops and livestock from Black producers.
Motivated by opposition to $4 billion in debt relief for minority farmers, two Republican representatives announced legislation on Thursday to prevent the USDA from considering race or gender in operating its programs. "All American farmers constitute a minority, and they are hurting right now as a direct result of the pandemic," said one of the sponsors, Rep. Burgess Owens of Utah.
The USDA will disburse up to $4 billion in Biden-backed loan forgiveness to minority farmers as speedily as possible, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the first-ever House Agriculture Committee hearing on the state of Black farmers. Farm state Republicans said the debt relief, intended as compensation for decades of racism, was itself discriminatory because white farmers are excluded.
The federal promise of $4 billion in debt relief for minority farmers, part of the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, is a step toward justice, said three Democratic senators on Monday. They said the next step should be passage of legislation to root out …
With Republicans complaining of discrimination against white farmers, the House passed a coronavirus bill on Wednesday that would provide an estimated $4 billion in debt relief for socially disadvantaged farmers.
Congress is poised today to pass one of the most sweeping relief programs for minority farmers in the nation’s history, through a provision of President Biden’s pandemic stimulus bill. Although the landmark legislation, which would cancel $4 billion worth of debt, seemed to emerge out of nowhere, it actually is the result of more than 20 years of organizing by Black farmers.(No paywall)
Six Democratic senators announced legislation on Monday to end discrimination at USDA and to expand Black-owned farmland by up to 32 million acres through land grants over 10 years. Sponsors include five members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which would handle the bill. “The Justice for …