As part of the latest COVID-19 relief package, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will begin handing out $4 billion in payments to an estimated 16,000 Black farmers beginning as early as next June to counter decades of loan discrimination by the USDA.
Some say the provision —introduced by Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock— would benefit Black farmers in a way no legislation has since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In addition to debt relief, the funds would provide other forms of assistance in acquiring land including grants, training and education.
Due to systemic racism, Black farmers in the nation have lost more than 12 million acres of farmland over the past century.
The announcement came as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was to participate in a roundtable discussion with Black farmers. sLast week, the Farm Service Agency published the first notice of funding availability for loan payments for eligible borrowers who have qualifying direct farm loans under the American Rescue Plan.
“The Plan has made it possible for USDA to deliver historic debt relief to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers beginning in June,” Vilsack says. “USDA is recommitting itself to gaining the trust and confidence of America’s farmers and ranchers using a new set of tools provided in the American Rescue Plan.”
The Plan authorizes funding and authorization for the FSA to pay up to 120 percent of direct and guaranteed loan with outstanding balances as of January first of 2021. He says the tools are designed to increase opportunity, advance equity, and address systemic discrimination in USDA programs.