By Shakera Moreland
- The Texas Attorney General Commissioner is suing to stop aid $4B worth of debt relief for Black farmers
- 42% of Black farmers were rejected for direct USDA loans in 2021
Black agricultural producers in Texas are facing an uphill battle in their quest to sow seeds of financial debt relief. Lawsuits from the Texas Attorney General Commissioner and white farmers have blocked $4 billion of pandemic aid that was allocated to Black farmers in the American Rescue Plan. This legal limbo has created new and unexpected financial strains for Black farmers, many of whom have been unable to make investments in their businesses given ongoing uncertainty about their debt loads.
Why This Matters: Nearly 100 years ago, 14% of all farmers in the U.S. identified themselves as Black. Fast forward to present-day, and you would find that that has dwindled down to about 1.4%. Nationally, Black farmers have lost more than 12 million acres of farmland. Census data shows the number of Black farmers in the United States decreased by 90.6% between 1920 and 1969. Debt forgiveness for Black and other “socially disadvantaged” farmers, a group that has endured decades of discrimination from banks and the federal government is needed.
In order to maintain efficient processes, upgrade tools and equipment, and market products, especially during the COVID pandemic, many farmers had to rely on outside help. For a moment, it seemed like the government was starting to pay attention. In 2021 as a result of COVID, the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color was passed by Congress. This bill sought to provide financial and debt forgiveness through the USDA to socially disadvantaged farmers.
President Biden is attempting to circumvent the Texas Agriculture Commissioner’s block by passing the Build Back Better Plan to support economically disadvantaged farmers. In 2021, 42% of Black farmers were rejected for direct USDA loans, according to CNN. The inability to obtain financial resources have forced many farmers to sell their land and forfeit farming altogether.
Situational Awareness: The decline in Black farmers has resulted in limited involvement in conversations regarding food and its impact on health disparities within this ethnic group. Unfortunately, there’s a real lack of resources to support the remaining 45,000 Black farmers, and the difficulty replacing the aging farming workforce could further contribute to broader diet-related health disparities. With so much focus on environmental factors and overall health, perhaps more attention and resources will be provided to areas such as uplifting Black farmers, to offset diet-related community damage.
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