Black farmers say efforts to tackle racial discrimination are not enough

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Black farmers do not appear to have full confidence in the Biden administration’s efforts to correct the decades-long biases they face through Department of Agriculture programs.

As previously stated by leGrio, according to The Washington Post, “Black farmers in America have lost over 12 million acres of farmland over the past century, as a result of what agricultural experts and black farmer advocates say is a combination of systemic racism, politics and politics. biased government and social and business practices that have denied black Americans have fair access to markets.

President Joe bidenThe US bailout tries to overcome these hurdles, but black farmers say it’s not enough.

According to a POLITICSVSO analyzing USDA data, “the agency granted loans to just 37% of black applicants last year in a program that helps farmers pay for land, equipment and repairs, but agreed 71% of requests from white farmers, ”writes the outlet.

“This data confirms what our former farmers have been saying about the United States Department of Agriculture for decades,” said Tracy Lloyd McCurty, executive director of the Black Belt Justice Center.

According to the report, Black Belt Justice Center is “a non-profit legal and advocacy organization dedicated to the preservation and regeneration of African American farmlands and land-based livelihoods through effective legal representation, advocacy and community education.”

Biden’s US bailout set aside $ 4 billion in funds to write off some farm debts of farmers of color, as well as to create subsidies, training and education opportunities. However, the plan was suspended in March by a federal judge who wrote that the program was discriminatory.

Judge Marcia Morales Howard of Florida’s Middle District Court ruled in favor of a lawsuit brought by a white farmer named Scott wynn, who allegedly had loan debt and experienced financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The program was already on temporary suspension due to a restraining order from a separate lawsuit involving another white Wisconsin farmer. However, the new order will grant an injunction nationwide.

“The effort of the American Rescue Plan is to begin to combat the cumulative effect of this discrimination in terms of socially disadvantaged producers,” said the Secretary of Agriculture. Tom vilsack told reporters in May. “I think there is a very legitimate reason for doing what we are doing. I think this needs to be supplemented with additional steps.

A USDA spokesperson said POLITICS that “the secretary is committed to building a new USDA at all levels, but this work is only just beginning and it will require constant focus and walking forward.”

Cedric Richmond

The job will require restructuring a racist system that for decades has undermined or crippled black farmers, many of whom have annual sales of less than $ 250,000, according to the report.

“I don’t even know if the USDA understands how endemic the problems are in 2021 in these small local county offices,” said Carolyn Jones, black farmer and executive director of the Mississippi Minority Farmers Alliance.

“The process in place prevents you from applying,” Jones said, citing the complex application process.

Handy Kennedy, founder of the AgriUnity cooperative, prepares feed for his cows on HK Farms in Cobbtown, Georgia. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images)

“If you have good credit, they say ‘go get a loan from an elementary school, you don’t need us.’ So it’s a double-edged sword, ”said Travis Cleaver, a black farmer from Hodgenville, Ky., and an expert on USDA loan programs. “To me, it’s just a hoax because you have bad credit or you have too good credit. They have too many loopholes.

Cleaver also noted his frustration with the complicated application process.

“You could be wasting all of your time trying to get an approval letter and still not getting a loan. I probably missed the loan four times in the application just because I didn’t understand it, ”he said. “The package is so thick and so intimidating, it’s not something you’re used to doing.”

Caesar Escalante, professor of agricultural and applied economics at the University of Georgia, noted that black farmers often receive smaller loans with higher interest rates due to poor credit scores.

“We know race is not a factor in determining credit scores,” Escalante said. “It depends on profitability and size. “

Advocates are pushing the USDA to reassess the criteria it uses to extend credit, which favors wealthy farms. The average black farmer works with 132 acres, according to the 2017 agricultural census, compared to 431 acres for white farmers.

“There should always be some type of objective and external review by a party, especially when it comes to loans and the FSA,” said Jillian hishaw Family Agriculture Resource Management Services, which provides resources to farmers from historically disadvantaged groups. Hishaw calls on the agency to “consider other criteria when it comes to qualifying for loans.”

Meanwhile, experts previously called the US bailout the most important legislation for black farmers since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

the Grio Biba adams contributed to this report.

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