Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga. is urging USDA to act quickly on debt relief programs for economically challenged farmers who have historically been discriminated against.

“I will continue to hold USDA’s feet to the fire,” Warnock said on Agri-Pulse Newsmakers this week. “We passed the legislation, and now we’ve just got to make sure that we get people the resources they need.” 

Relief "can't come fast enough" for farmers who experienced discrimination, he said.

The Inflation Reduction Act allocated $5.3 billion to farm debt relief in August 2022.

Of that total, $3.1 billion is allocated for distressed holders of guaranteed and direct loans. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced plans in October 2022 to spend $1.3 billion of that money.

The additional $2.2 billion in the IRA has been set aside for payments of up to $500,000 each to farmers who “experienced discrimination” in USDA farm lending programs prior to Jan. 1, 2021. 

Warnock said he sees education as an important component of supporting underserved farmers. He is looking to strengthen historically Black universities and colleges during farm bill negotiations to “provide the kind of training that helps young farmers get into business.” 

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The senator stressed the importance of bipartisanship on the Senate Ag Committee as farm bill discussions progress.

"These issues are not about right and left. They are about right and wrong,” he added, noting his listing by the Lugar Center and Georgetown University’s McCourt School as the 18th most bipartisan senator in the 117th Congress. “It’s about doing the best you can for the people you were sent to represent.” 

Dãnia Davy with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and Dewayne Goldmon, Vilsack’s senior advisor for racial equity, also join the show to discuss land access for underserved farmers, gaps in current assistance and progress made by the USDA Equity Commission.

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