Equity Commission to examine USDA programs and policies for bias

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.

Sen. Booker sees budget reconciliation advancing debt relief for farmers of color

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, …

Wildfires and workplace are top priorities for Biden nominee to oversee U.S. forests

President Biden's nominee to oversee the 193 million-acre national forest system said on Thursday that he would focus on wildfire management and prevention and on eradicating racial and sexual discrimination at the Forest Service. "If confirmed, I will be the person responsible for providing leadership to ensure that everyone is treated fairly," said Homer Wilkes, a 41-year USDA employee.

Preliminary injunction against USDA debt relief for minority farmers

A federal judge in Fort Worth agreed with white farmers that they were unfairly excluded by Congress from a loan forgiveness program for socially disadvantaged farmers and issued a preliminary injunction that bars the USDA “from discriminating on account of race or ethnicity” in running the …

House panel: Put the brakes on China-owned farmland in U.S.

China would be barred from buying more U.S. farmland and the land already in its possession would become ineligible for farm subsidies under language approved by the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. On a voice vote, the provision was added to a $197 billion USDA-FDA funding bill headed for a vote on the House floor.

Vilsack calls out farmers suing to block debt relief for minority farmers

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."

Judge: Suit by white farmers might end debt-relief plan for minorities

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.

Bills would disclose race, gender of farm subsidy recipients

The USDA would be obliged to disclose the race and gender of farm subsidy recipients as well as how much money they received under companion bills filed by two Black members of the House and Senate Agriculture committees on Wednesday.

House Ag chairman: Use tax code to encourage purchases from Black farmers

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.