By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media
The National Black Farmers Association is concerned that the Cut Inflation Act of 2022 will reverse debt relief provided by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
When President Joe Biden signed the law, about 15,000 farmers of color across the country — including more than 400 in California — were affected, according to the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA).
Of California’s 70,000 farms, less than 1% are black owned or operated, while more than 90% are white owned or operated. In 2012, California had 722 black farmers according to an agricultural census report released that year. By 2017, that number had dropped to 429. Nationally, 45,508 black farmers (1.3% of all farmers) were counted in the 2017 agricultural census, representing 0.5% of farmland from the country.
The $1.9 trillion US bailout, which included $4 billion to help black farmers and other ‘socially disadvantaged’ farmers, will be replaced with a plan that makes relief funds available to all farmers of the struggling United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“I am very, very disappointed with this legislation,” John Wesley Boyd, Jr., FANB founder and president, said in an Aug. 9 statement. “I am ready to fight for debt relief for black, Native American and other farmers of color all the way to the Supreme Court. I won’t stop fighting this.
The NBFA is a nonprofit organization representing African American farmers and their families. It serves tens of thousands of members nationwide. NBFA education and advocacy efforts focus on civil rights, land retention, access to public and private loans, agricultural education and training, and rural economic development for black and other small farmers.
The U.S. bailout debt relief program was to repay USDA loans held by 15,000 black, Native American, Alaska Native, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Hispanic and Latino farmers, according to NBFA Programs and Events Coordinator Kara Brewer-Boyd in a phone interview with California Black Media on August 12.
“Black, Native American and socially disadvantaged people of color were automatically approved for 120% debt relief. They had to be paid in full,” Brewer-Boyd said. “Now they won’t have that money at all. It’s horrible. These farmers were already identified and sent letters indicating that their debt had been paid. These farmers are in a bad situation. Congress made them worse off by telling them, “You’re going to get it.” Now they tell them ‘You’re not going to get it.’
Objections raised by non-black farmers to the debt relief the federal government promised black farmers put the program in limbo.
These opponents have filed a dozen lawsuits against the American Rescue Plan Act, including a class action lawsuit. The courts are currently hearing the cases.
Under the Inflation Reduction Act, the USDA is authorized to provide $3.1 billion to distressed borrowers. Another fund has been created to provide farmers, breeders and forest owners who are victims of discrimination before 2021 with an envelope of 2.2 billion dollars.
“What they replaced (the American Rescue Plan Act 2021) is Section 22006 which now states that any farmer can apply to see if they are in economic difficulty, have their loans canceled or have them restructured,” said Brewer-Boyd. “Now can you tell me it’s not a big difference?” You took $4 billion out of 120% debt relief, put it in a $3 billion fund, took out $1 billion, and opened it up to all farmers.
Brewer-Boyd said black farmers in California were approved under the original debt relief program.
“Discrimination at the USDA against black farmers was rampant and severe. The Section 1005 Loan Repayment Program was a necessary step to repairing this damage. Recognizing and correcting racism is not unconstitutional or racist,” said James Wesley Boyd, Jr.
Last year, Lawrence Lucus, who founded the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees, told the California task force to study and develop redress proposals for African Americans that racism is rampant in agriculture. , and that is the main reason why there are just over 400 black Farmers in California.
“I’m sorry to say it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better in the times we’re facing,” Lucus said. “You have white farmers, who own most of the land and get all the benefits, they are the ones now taking legal action all over the country. They say it’s discriminatory to have debt relief for black farmers.