The $5 billion approved in the American Rescue Plan for disadvantaged farmers, including $4 billion in debt relief, is only the beginning of what should be done for farmers of color, three key U.S. senators told reporters Monday.
Democrats Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts hailed the passage of the provisions included in the American Rescue Plan but said they would continue working to enact the Justice for Black Farmers Act, which includes a program that could end up transferring 32 million acres of land to Black farmers over 10 years.
In 1920, Warnock said, there were more than 925,000 Black farmers. Now, the number is around 50,000.
Booker said it’s critical that USDA process the debt relief provisions swiftly, in order to help farmers facing foreclosure because of the COVID pandemic. Black farmers “were already in a weakened financial position” when the pandemic hit, he said.
He also said USDA needs to listen to Black farmers in deciding how to allocate the additional $1 billion in relief funds, which includes money for technical assistance and minority institutions such as Tuskegee University, as well as “one or more” commissions to address “racial equity issues within the Department of Agriculture and its programs.”
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