Black Farmers Get the COVID Relief They Deserve – Jacksonville Free Press
FLORIDA COURIER – (Source: www.blackpressusa.com) – By Ben Jealous, President of People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation – Fanatical bureaucrats and discriminatory policies of the US Department of Agriculture and his Farmers Home Administration loan agency abused black farmers for decades. Black farms have been falsely classified as unproductive. Farmers were unfairly denied the loans to which they were entitled. The government blocked and buried their complaints of discrimination. The land was taken and given to the white farmers. Senate Democrats recently reported that black farmers in the South have lost more than 12 million acres of farmland since the 1950s.
If you ever start to doubt the importance of elections, think of black farmers.
The new COVID relief law takes important steps to address decades of shameful discrimination against black farmers by the federal government.
And that wouldn’t have happened without voters putting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the White House and giving Democrats a majority in the Senate.
Fewer black farmers
Discrimination is well documented. So is its devastating impact on black farm families.
Consider some statistics. One hundred years ago, there were over 925,000 black-run farms. By 2017, that number had fallen by more than 95%.
Today, less than two percent of farmers in the United States are black, and 98 percent of farmland is owned by white owners.
Part of the problem lies with state laws that often require the sale of inherited farmland for pennies on the dollar. But this is not a problem confined to the Confederate States or the Jim Crow era. Much of this is a problem of intentional discrimination on the part of federal government employees.
Decades of abuse
Fanatical bureaucrats and discriminatory policies of the United States Department of Agriculture and its Farmers Home Administration loan agency have abused black farmers for decades. Black farms have been falsely classified as unproductive.
Farmers were unfairly denied the loans to which they were entitled. The government blocked and buried their complaints of discrimination. The land was taken and given to white farmers.
Senate Democrats recently reported that black farmers in the South have lost more than 12 million acres of farmland since the 1950s.
In 1982, the United States Civil Rights Commission stated that the Farmers Home Administration’s lack of response “hampered the efforts of small black farmers to remain a viable force in agriculture.” During the 1990s, many farmers were deprived of significant assistance that they should have obtained with lawsuits settlements.
Official neglect and mistreatment of black farmers continued into the 21st century: a study found that between 2006 and 2016, the federal government was six times more likely to ban a black farmer than a white farmer.
Money distributed by the Trump administration to survive the trade war it started and to help farmers cope with the pandemic, has mostly bypassed black farmers.
Last fall, Senators Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the Black Farmers Justice Act.
It was designed to address and correct the discrimination that “has cost black farmers millions of acres of farmland and robbed black farmers and their families of hundreds of billions of dollars in intergenerational wealth.”
Keep it up
And then the 2020 election created powerful opportunities for black farmers. In the first week of the Biden-Harris administration, the Agriculture Department suspended debt collection and foreclosure on thousands of farmers behind on federal loan repayments, many of whom are black.
Newly elected Senator Raphael Warnock – thank you, Georgia voters – introduced the Farmers of Color Emergency Relief Act, which became part of the COVID relief legislation known as the US bailout .
The measure, passed by Congress and enacted by President Biden, includes $ 10 billion to support agriculture. About half of that is set aside to help black farmers through debt relief, education, training, and land acquisition. The law provides for direct aid of $ 4 billion to deleverage farmers.
And it includes $ 1 billion to create and fund a commission to tackle long-standing discrimination and inequity in USDA programming.
These long overdue steps to reverse generations of wrongdoing are not just the result of one election.
They are the product of decades of organizing black farmers and their advocates to document and challenge racist discrimination and injustice.
And get black people and their allies to vote.
Organization and elections can change the world. Together we make and recreate history. Let’s stay the course!
Ben Jealous is president of People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation. He is also the former president and CEO of the NAACP.