White farmers have voiced their frustration after President Joe Biden‘s $1.9 trillion COVID relief package this week awarded $5billion to minority farmers while not offering them the same aid.
The Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act was introduced to the relief package by Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock in early February to provide immediate financial relief to black, indigenous, and Hispanic farmers.
The bill provides $4billion in direct payments to farmers of color and has allocated $1 billion to address systemic racism at the U.S. Agriculture Department (USAD), providing legal assistance to farmers of color and grants and loans to improve land access for minorities.
The $4billion will provide direct payments of up to 120 percent of a ‘socially disadvantaged’ farmer or rancher’s outstanding debt as of January 1, 2021.
Yet white farmers believe the add-on to the relief package is discriminatory as South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham blasts the money as ‘reparations’.
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Senator Lindsey Graham has claimed the money is a form of ‘reparations’
Angered white farmers and social media users have also blasted the bill
The bill was introdcued to the relief package by Senator Raphael Warnock in February
The American Rescue Plan will provide $10.4 billion in total for farmers of all races and farm-related programs, according to CBS, but most of the money is earmarked for debt foregiveness for minority farmers.
Half of the fund is going to them, despite white farmers in the US vastly outnumbering their minority counterparts.
According to the USAD, which last issued figures in 2017, there are 3.2million white farmers in America.
However, there are only 45,500 black farmers, 112,500 Hispanic or Latino farmers, 58,200 American Indian or Alaska Native farmers and 22,000 Asian farmers.
This totals only 238,200 minority farmers who will be in recent of 50 percent of the offered aide.
White farmers outnumber them more than 13 times.
Sen. Graham appeared on Fox News this week to blast the bill as an example of ‘out of control liberals’ and claimed that it had nothing to do with the coronavirus and so should not be included in the COVID-19 relief package.
‘Let me give an example of something that really bothers me. In this bill, if you are a farmer, your loan will be forgiven up to 120% of your loan, not 100%, but 120%, if you’re socially disadvantaged, if you’re African American, some other minority,’ he said.
John Boyd, Jr., president of the National Black Farmers Association (pictured in 2020), claimed the money is ‘a big deal for us’
‘But if you’re White person, if you are a White woman, no forgiveness. That’s reparations. What does that got to do with Covid?’
It was also criticized by Betsy McCaughey, a former lieutenant governor of New York, who claimed that the Empire State’s majority white farmers were being discriminated against.
‘The bill looks more like reparations than COVID relief,’ she wrote in an op-ed for the New York Post.
‘It says farm aid is ‘for the purposes of addressing the longstanding and widespread discrimination against socially disadvantaged farmers.’ Truth is, farmers have been struggling for a decade, and more than half lose money year after year.
‘Minority-owned farms are generally less indebted than those owned by whites, though diminished access to credit may be part of the reason. White and minority farmers alike need debt relief,’ she added.
Angered white farmers also took to social media to hit out at the bill after the packages was passed, as they claim that they are being discriminated against by not being offered the same loan forgiveness.
‘Farmers of color’ get $4 billion bailout to pay off their debt. White farmers get nothing. They say it’s reparations, but it’s not. It’s racism. Pay your bills, America,’ wrote podcast hist Toss Starnes.
Angered white farmers posted about their frustration on social media
‘Reverse racism is rampant… ask the white American farmers… simply amazing eh??’ wrote another social media user.
‘Sorry for your luck if you’re a WHITE FARMER,’ added a user named Mitzi. ‘Dems are demonstrating RACISM this time against WHITES. Only $ for Farmers of color.’
‘Why not help all small struggling farmers instead of just a few!’ asked @PatriciaColeman.
‘Democrats’ COVID Relief Bill discriminates against white farmers. The sowing of such a discriminatory seed in our fields, assures us of reaping a harvest of racial injustices,’ added another farmer.
Black farmers, however, have welcomed the money as they speak out about facing discrimination from the USDA in previous decades.
Discriminatory lending practices, often at local USDA offices, have denied black farmers access to funds needed to operate, maintain, and purchase farmland, resulting in a loss of $120 billion in farmland value, according to a 2018 analysis by Melissa Gordon of Tufts University.
‘This is a big deal for us,’ John Boyd, Jr., president of the National Black Farmers Association, told CBS MoneyWatch. ‘We see this as a great opportunity to help thousands.’
Boyd claims that by allowing minority farmers to shed their debt, it will led to further expansion of their farms and allow them to address other social issues.
Yet he argues that the USDA needs to repair its relationship with these farmers beforehand.
The number of black growers has been on the decline for decades. Pictured, Rod Bradshaw, , who claims to be the last Black farmer in Hodgeman County, Kansas
USDA figures show that 14 percent of all U.S. farms in 1920 were black-owned. This had fallen to two percent in 2017. Pictured, Lateef Dowdell stands on land once belonging to his uncle Gil Alexander, who was the last active black farmer in his Kansas community
Black farmers have long viewed the USDA suspiciously, and Biden’s administration has pledged to address past injustices.
A 1982 report from the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights found that the agency’s lending arm ‘has not given adequate emphasis or priority to the crisis facing black farmers’.
Another 2019 report said farmers of color believe lenders discrimate against them as they view them as ‘more likely to operate smaller, lower-revenue farms, have weaker credit histories, or lack clear title to their agricultural land’.
The USDA expressed support for Warnock’s bill when it was first introduced.
‘It’s a bill crafted to address the immediate need for debt relief among those who have been marginalized and are hurting while also advancing long-term issues,’ USDA Chief of Staff Katharine Ferguson said in a statement.
Warnock claims that the bill will aid growers who have struggled during the pandemic and correct the decades of discrimination.
‘Now that this critical relief is over the finish line, we have to get it out quickly and efficiently to the farmers most in need and for whom this hand-up is long over due,’ he said in a statement.
The number of black growers has been on the decline for decades, according to Boyd.
USDA figures show that 14 percent of all U.S. farms in 1920 were black-owned. This had fallen to two percent in 2017.
Black farmers also lost 80 percent of their land between 2010 and 2017.
Boyd said he hoped increased funding would encourage more black people to be farmers.