Covid-19 stimulus bill provides $ 4 billion in debt relief for black farmers and other farmers of color
The provision of the reconsideration bill reflects a bill presented to the Senate last month by a group of Senators including Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ). (This bill, in turn, draws inspiration from the Black Farmers Justice Act – a far-reaching law which would allocate land to black farmers to make up for past losses, among other measures.) In addition to debt relief, it also allocates just over $ 1 billion to programs that would assess discriminatory policies in the country. ‘USDA, would provide technical support to black farmers, and support research at historically black colleges and universities.
If passed in the House, the bill will be sent to President Biden’s office. Civil rights activists have expressed cautious optimism that the funding could quell the current problem of black land loss, which has been driven in part by debt and penalties associated with federal loans.
“This is one of the most important milestones in black agrarian history,” said Tracy Lloyd McCurty, executive director of the Black Belt Justice Center, an organization that advocates for debt cancellation associated with discrimination claims. for two decades. However, McCurty wondered why it took an ongoing public health emergency to finally bring economic relief to black farmers. “How come the black farmer has suffered for over twenty years and is only receiving relief now because of the economic suffering caused by this viral pandemic instead of the virus of systemic racism and discrimination?” Why did it take this? It’s something that we really have to struggle with.
Wright was also worried about celebrating too soon, as the USDA has consistently failed to deliver on debt cancellation promises. Following the Pigford A class action lawsuit filed by black farmers against the USDA in 1997 that alleged racist lending practices, the federal government agreed to make settlement payments to black farmers that included both cash backs and loans. However, very few Pigford applicants actually benefited from debt relief. As a result, black farmers continued to accumulate interest and penalties on USDA loans, which in turn forced many countries out of the industry.