Deeply Rooted: Black Farmers $4 Billion Relief Held Up By Discrimination Lawsuits
By Stephone Coward
- White farmers across the country have filed lawsuits to stop $4B in direct debt relief payments authorized in the American Rescue Plan that would help Black farmers seeking debt relief
- Black farm ownership has fallen from 16M to 2M in acreage, most of which has occurred during the past 70 years
There is a massive inequity in the access to resources between Black and white farmers, with the latter group having filed lawsuits to stop $4 billion in direct debt relief payments authorized in the American Rescue Plan that would help African American farmers seeking debt relief. In the Miller v. Vilsack lawsuit, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller argued that the debt relief program unconstitutionally discriminates against white farmers, causing a Federal District Judge to issue an injunction and order the USDA not to issue payments until litigation is finalized.
Why This Matters: In a tale as old as time, here's a story of those with power and resources looking to retain it, to the detriment of under-resourced and underserved communities. Black farm ownership has fallen from 16 million to 2 million in acreage, most of which has occurred during the past 70 years. There are still 45,000 African American farmers who remain in need of financial relief from the impact of the pandemic.
Citing racism and discrimination has been a successful strategy used by those who wish to uphold the status quo. The tried and true method of suppression and oppression works so well that legislation often gets reworked to exclude race to have a better chance of becoming law to the disservice of those that the law meant to protect.
Situational Awareness: Transformative legislation has a history of becoming a shell of its form itself by the time that reaches the President's desk. This past October, members of Congress introduced a provision to provide $6 billion in debt forgiveness that removed any reference to race to make it more inclusive. The aid would now be available to farmers who are considered underserved, limited-resourced, or economically distressed. Broadening the scope of eligibility for the relief in Biden's farm debt relief plan could potentially exclude thousands of minority farmers.
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