The first settlement bill passed by Congress in 2021 provided $4 billion in relief to farmers of color. But after being held in court over a reverse discrimination claim, the latest settlement package, the Inflation Reduction Act, repeals the original provision and replaces it with access for all USDA borrowers in distress.
Congress attempted a similar amendment in the original Build Back Better bill, allowing it to restore the provision to provide assistance to all USDA borrowers in distress rather than based on skin color.
What was once called “Debt Relief for Farmers of Color” is now read as “Assistance for Selected Farm Borrowers,” and the USDA has made a commitment to help farmers whose farming operations are at risk. $3.1 billion to difficult USDA borrowers. Through this section, USDA is able to provide loan modifications and payments to difficult borrowers with the goal of keeping farmers farming.
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If the law is passed, the USDA will be able to quickly implement these new programs to provide financial relief to needy farmers. For the first time in history, USDA will be able to work with borrowers to resolve unsustainable debt burdens and arrears without acquiring land or excluding farmers from future assistance, addressing discrimination will also have the specified resources and permissions for
For background, USDA officials say they will provide $2 billion in assistance to amend Section 1006 of the U.S. Relief Plans Act to provide financial assistance to farmers who experience discrimination under the USDA loan program. The historic Pigford Incident. This would significantly increase funding for this purpose from the American Relief Plan Act, which provided a minimum of $50 million for this purpose.
Courtroom challenges continue
This law allows the USDA to forgive bad debts at no additional cost to taxpayers. The repeal of Section 1005 of ARPA offsets the costs associated with this legislation.
Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Wen Fa shared in November 2021 that there were 12 cases challenging the apportionment of Section 1005 debt relief. He was served with three interim injunctions under judgments in Texas, Tennessee and Florida, and a Florida court issued a nationwide injunction.
Fa said the provision as originally written was blatantly discriminatory on the basis of race. Loans are paid up to 120% of the loan amount, but if you are a white farmer or rancher, regardless of your circumstances, you are categorically excluded from this program,” he says.
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Pacific Legal continues to await the district court’s ruling. Mortan vs. Vilsac A fully briefed challenge from March.
Matthew Morton and Joshua Morton are brothers who are full-time farmers in Kell, Illinois. Like many Southern Illinois farmers, they grow soybeans, wheat, and corn on their farms. And like many farmers across the country, they have outstanding federal farm loans.
USDA gave the brothers a $146,000 loan in 2020 to help finance their farm operations. Today they still owe more than $140,000. This is an amount that wastes a significant portion of your income and has led to financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic in an industry that typically has low profit margins.
Because they are white, they were not eligible for loan forgiveness.
“The blanket exclusion of white farmers from debt relief is intended to address past discrimination against ethnic minority farmers and ranchers by the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” Pacific Legal said. “These historic mistakes have been previously addressed through administrative and class action settlements. Now the government is trying to combat racism by making it mandatory.”
Of the proposed changes, Fa said: “
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John Boyd, founder and president of the National Association of Black Farmers, said, “I am very disappointed in this legislative action. I will not stop fighting this.”
Boyd and his wife Kara Boyd are founders and presidents of the American Indiana Farmers Association, which is calling on members to call on President Joe Biden to issue a moratorium on farm foreclosures.Biden Farm Loans The moratorium includes foreclosure protection for USDA Farm Service Agency Farm Ownership Direct and Guaranteed loans, as well as other agricultural loans, while legislative remedies are being debated in Congress. They say they have to.
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“Discrimination against black farmers in the USDA was pervasive and severe. The Section 1005 Loan Repayment Program was a necessary step to remedy these harms. It’s not unconstitutional or racist,” says John Boyd.
“Native American farmers face rising costs for inputs such as fuel and fertilizer, as well as rising land prices, and I can’t wait for the Biden administration to keep their promises,” Kara said. If billions of dollars in aid can be sent to mostly white farmers in months through the USDA’s Emergency Relief Program, the administration can deliver on its promise to Native American farmers in days.President Biden , that’s enough.”