Congressmen have introduced legislation designed to help BIPOC farmers
By Diego Flammini
Two U.S. Senators have recently introduced pieces of legislation that, if passed, would provide support for Black farmers.
On Tuesday, Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock tabled the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act. This $5 billion bill, as part of President Biden’s overall $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package, would distribute $4 billion in direct payments “to help farmers of color pay-off outstanding USDA farm loan debts and related taxes, and help them respond to the economic impacts of the pandemic,” the bill says.
The remaining $1 billion would be used “to support activities at USDA that will root out systemic racism, provide technical and legal assistance to agricultural communities of color, and fund under-resourced programs that will shape the future for farmers and communities of color.”
USDA representatives support Sen. Warnock’s bill.
A piece of legislation like this reflects new leadership at the federal ag department and aims to right some wrongs, said Katherine Ferguson, chief of staff at with the USDA.
“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 such as Heirs’ Property, tackling the root causes of discrimination via an Equity Commission, and investing in building back a new generation of farmers of color,” she said in a Feb. 9 statement.
Sen. Warnock introduced his bill the same day another Senator introduced a bill designed to support Black farmers.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker reintroduced the Justice for Black Farmers Act on Tuesday. Sen. Booker originally tabled the bill in November 2020, but it didn’t pass the committee stage.
Booker’s bill contains multiple items.
- Creating the Equitable Land Access Service within USDA to provide land grants of up to 160 acres to existing and aspiring Black farmers.
- Creating a Farm Conservation Corps to help young adults from socially disadvantaged communities attain the skills necessary to pursue careers in farming and ranching.
- Reforming the Packers and Stockyards Act to protect all family farmers and ranchers from multinational meatpacking companies.
These changes in federal policy would help ensure Black producers have the same opportunities as others, Booker said.
"Overtly discriminatory and unjust federal policy has robbed Black families in the United States of the ability to build and pass on inter-generational wealth,” he said in a statement, Politico reported. “As a new member on the Agriculture committee, I am proud to re-introduce this landmark legislation alongside my colleagues as we work to correct this historic injustice.”
Booker’s bill has received endorsements from multiple industry organizations including the National Young Farmers Coalition, National Farmers Union and the National Black Farmers Association.