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Civil Rights Victory for Black & Minority Farmers

Vipin Saini
Vipin Saini
Black Farmers
Black Farmers

For Black and minority farmers, the American Rescue Plan may represent one of the most significant pieces of civil rights legislation in decades. 

The American Rescue Plan became law 2 months ago, and already we’ve seen hunger drop more than 40 percent. The unemployment rate has dropped by more than half thanks to the creation of over 1.5 million new jobs. 

Those $1,400 checks have allowed families to pay down debt built up over Covid-19 pandemic. And federal dollars have brought safe, effective Coronavirus vaccinations to almost 160 million Americans across the country. 

For Black and minority farmers, the American Rescue Plan could represent one of the most significant pieces of civil rights legislation in decades. That’s because deep within the law is a provision that responds to decades of systemic discrimination perpetrated against farmers and ranchers of color by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

The law directs USDA to pay off the farm loans of nearly 16,000 minority farmers and start to address longstanding racial equity challenges that have plagued farmers of color for generations. 

Today, after months of planning, USDA starts this historic debt relief program. 

For much of the history of the USDA, Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian American and other minority farmers have faced discrimination — sometimes overt & sometimes through deeply embedded rules and policies — that have prevented them from achieving as much as their counterparts who do not face these documented acts of discrimination. 

For example, in 2020, USDA gave tens of billions of dollars to farmers due to COVID-related market losses. But those payments went primarily to white producers while socially disadvantaged producers — a legal term for Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian American and farmers of color — received just 1% of the aid.  

The reason the payments went so overwhelmingly to white producers is because the system is stacked against farmers of color. Most farm programs are based on size of an operation and its history of output. 

White farmers have advantages, including more land as well as larger farms which have produced more crops & livestock over a longer, documented period of time. And because those farms are larger, better capitalized, and producing most of the crops and livestock, they get most of the USDA payments when payments are distributed. As a result, socially disadvantaged farmers continue to fall further and further behind. 

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