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Bills would disclose race, gender of farm subsidy recipients

The USDA would be obliged to disclose the race and gender of farm subsidy recipients as well as how much money they received under companion bills filed by two Black members of the House and Senate Agriculture committees on Wednesday. Sponsors Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said the information would help end decades of discrimination in the farm program.

The lawmakers said that 99% of the USDA’s trade war payments and 97% of its coronavirus relief payments have gone to white farmers. About 95% of U.S. farmers are white.

“Although farmers of color were able to receive debt relief in the American Rescue Plan, the fight for racial equity in agriculture is far from over, and we must ensure adequate transparency and fairness in USDA programs going forward,” said Booker, a Democrat. Rush said discrimination was a major factor in the decline in the number of Black farmers. A century ago, one in seven farmers was Black; now less than 2 percent are Black.

The Rush and Booker bills would also require the USDA to disclose the race and gender of those who are denied USDA assistance. John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, said disclosure of race and gender “is the only way to determine” whether farmers are being treated equally.

The Environmental Working Group, which runs a database of farm subsidy payments, said that without the information sought in the Booker and Rush bills, “Congress cannot be sure that long overdue reforms are working.”

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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