USDA to start repaying loans to minority farmers in June

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Minority farmers who have faced systemic discrimination for decades will begin receiving debt relief in early June, in line with what Agriculture Minister Tom Vilsack called Friday one of the most important civil rights legislation in decades.

In an article in USA Today Friday, Vilsack also called the debt relief “a major civil rights victory,” saying it was a response to systemic discrimination by the Department of Agriculture against farmers and ranchers of color.

“This is a historic move that will symbolize that the USDA really cares and that the Biden administration is doing everything it can to mend fences and show minority farmers that they really care about them during his reign,” Abraham said. Carpenter, 59-year-old specialist. is an old black farmer whose family grows fruits and vegetables on an area of ​​approximately 1,500 acres near Grady, Arkansas.

Carpenter expects the debt relief to recoup about $ 200,000 of agricultural loans, freeing up money that can now be funneled into agricultural operations such as buying seeds and equipment instead of paying off loans.

“I know that they have said this about a thousand times, that they wanted to bring everyone together to ensure that everyone is treated fairly. You can say it a million times, but until you show it, nobody really believes it, ”he said. “But this action to pay off debts to minority farmers shows that they really care about fair treatment for everyone.”

The USDA Farm Services Agency announced Friday that it posted the first notice of the availability of funding under the US Rescue Plan Act for eligible direct agricultural loan borrowers. A follow-up notice to farmers who have received government-guaranteed agricultural loans from private lenders will be published within 120 days.

A regulation in the pandemic law directs the Department of Agriculture to pay off agricultural loans to nearly 16,000 minority farmers and to begin tackling racial equality issues. It authorizes the Department of Agriculture to pay up to 120 percent of a direct and guaranteed outstanding loan to disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

“I feel really good,” said Rod Bradshaw, a 68-year-old black wheat, cattle and milon farmer on 2,000 acres near Jetmore, Kansas. “We knew it was going to happen, we didn’t know when.”

Bradshaw, who has been farming since buying his first land in 1976, has filed several discrimination complaints with the Department of Agriculture over the years. He said he has four direct loans totaling over US $ 300,000, which he expects to be repaid under the debt relief plan.

“It will free us and allow us to do business as usual,” Bradshaw said upon hearing of Friday’s announcement. “This has been going on for so long that this is the first step towards getting black farmers and colored farmers back where they need to be.”

The Department of Agriculture said in a press release that for most of its history, disadvantaged farmers and ranchers have faced discrimination, sometimes overt and sometimes through deeply rooted rules and policies.

“USDA reaffirms its commitment to building the trust and confidence of American farmers and ranchers by using a new set of tools in the American Rescue Plan to increase opportunities, advance equity, and eliminate systemic discrimination in USDA programs.” said Vilsack.

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