Black farmers are calling for justice

Agriculture Secretary Mike Biden’s Comment on the Abundance of Socially Disdisadvantaged Farmers and the Agriculture Department Bias under a Reconciliation Law

The newly passed reconciliation bill instructed the department to create a new program to give out money. It was directed to have one or more non-profits carry out the program instead of USDA. The legislation was done to address farmers’ concerns of USDA bias, according to a Democratic staffer.

He said the USDA did little to alleviate the burdens of systemic inequality for blacks, brown and Native farmers for more than 100 years. Biden referred to class action and large lawsuits brought by farmers and promised to bring equity to agriculture department’s methods.

Black farmers who should have gotten relief from lawsuits say not all the settlements made it into their hands, resulting in rapid land loss, steep debt and a history of distrust in the department that left farmers behind on accessing capital and programs needed to make their businesses thrive.

As a part of the American Rescue Plan, the early 2020 pandemic relief bill, lawmakers approved $5 billion toward debt relief and cancellation for farmers of color. The legislation was specifically targeting what was labeled “socially disadvantaged” farmers, or African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Native Americans, but it excluded white women.

USDA has yet to announce how it will structure the latest debt relief effort. The department reviewed blowback over the delay to implement the promised financial relief.

Farmers, advocates, lawmakers, and more, can provide advice on selecting the third-party program administrator, conducting outreach to farmers who borrowed from the USDA, and how the department should identify who has been discriminated against after a request for information was made on Thursday.

There is a 30-day comment period for the public along with weekly listening sessions hosted by the department. After the comments are collected and reviewed, the department will look to select the third parties to administer the program, according to a USDA official, and design the program while recruiting the organizations to run the program.

The request for information has “very specific questions but people are going to have very different lived experiences and what we really want to know is the thing that would make the program work for them,” the USDA official said. “We want our program to be farm focused, and work in ways that might not have been done before.”

The Texas A&M University Class Action Action Against Black Farmers: A First-Principles Argument against the Biden Administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund

The group has filed lawsuit against Texas A&M University, claiming their hiring practices discriminate based on race or sex. That lawsuit is ongoing.

Miller and his group have obtained several legal victories against the Biden administration in the past few weeks and months, mostnotably on issues of racial discrimination.

Miller argued that the Small Business Administration’s Restaurant revitalization Fund was unconstitutional and racially discriminatory in its initial version, as America First Legal was also successful in stopping some relief funds from being given to women, veterans and minority business owners.

“I want to set the record straight – no one is against White farmers in this country,” John Boyd Jr., 57, a fourth-generation farmer who is founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association, told CNN. He said that Miller is doing the worst thing you can do for race relations in this country by taking legal challenges against Black farmers.

There are only 48,697 producers who identified as Black, making up about 1.4% of the nation’s 3.4 million producers, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, the latest federal dataset on American farmland demographics. A majority live in the southeastern and mid-Atlantic states.

The class action lawsuit brought about a $1.25 billion settlement for black farmers, though some farmers didn’t receive their settlements.

The farmers who were not able to get a traditional loan at a traditional bank turned to the Farm Service Agency. They would be the next option or the last option,” Jeffers said. “They actually have leeway built into the rules to work with these farmers and, we’re hearing, those rules are only being applied to more white farmers.”

The USDA Agricultural Extension Program: Indictment, Denials, Failures, Implications, and Possible Impact on Farming Programs

Barriers to access programs include incorrect denials, cumbersome paperwork, and a lack of knowledge about eligibility for certain programs.

In an unusual move, the Justice Department let the deadline to appeal the injunctions that froze the program slide, opting to continue the court battle at the local level.

“The government vigorously defended this program in the courts but because of these injunctions, the $5 billion provided in ARPA remained frozen,” said Marissa Perry, press secretary at USDA. “This litigation would likely have not been resolved for years.”

For some farmers, that means complete cancellation. Even after they were promised full cancellation, it means partial assistance.

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