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.
Financially distressed farmers have received $800 million of an anticipated $1.3 billion to reduce their debts on USDA farm loans, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday. "Today, I've got to think there are thousands of producers out there who can breathe a little easier," he said during a teleconference.
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2021 offer of $4 billion in loan forgiveness to Black and other socially disadvantaged farmers, even though Congress repealed the aid program this summer, said a class action lawsuit filed on Wednesday.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 farm sector would gain $27 billion for climate mitigation, including payments for planting cover crops, from the social welfare and climate change bill passed by the House, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Agriculture can lead the way in the fight on climate with climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices that sequester carbon, reduce emissions and create new and better market opportunities for producers."
The USDA would receive nearly $90 billion through the "build back better" bill to mitigate climate change, reduce the risk of wildfires, provide debt relief for economically distressed farmers, and encourage rural economic growth, said the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday.
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.
With a historic program to provide debt relief for farmers of color tied up in litigation, the Biden administration and Congress must use additional tools to get financial support to struggling farmers, experts say. Though they remain confident in USDA’s support of the program, attorneys, …
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.
The Agriculture Department would offer small farmers one-time loan forgiveness of up to $250,000 under legislation announced by five Democratic senators on Thursday. Lead sponsor Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said she would try to include debt relief in the upcoming infrastructure bill "to make certain our farmers are not left behind."
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.
The USDA will proceed with $4 billion in loan forgiveness for socially disadvantaged farmers despite lawsuits that want to add white farmers to the program, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday. The assistance is intended to address the cumulative effect of ingrained discrimination against Blacks and other farmers of color, said Vilsack at the White House.
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
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 …