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Black farm leader calls for USDA foreclosure moratorium

Senators were wrong in repealing a program for $4 billion in debt relief for socially disadvantaged farmers, said John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, on Tuesday. A Virginia farmer, Boyd called on President Biden to declare a moratorium on USDA farm foreclosures while Congress worked on a new relief plan.

The program has been tied up in court for months by lawsuits claiming it was unfair to white farmers. The Senate repealed the 2021 language on Sunday at the same time it approved $5.3 billion to help financially distressed farmers and farmers who suffered discrimination in USDA farm lending programs. The new package was tucked into the USDA section of the mammoth climate, healthcare and tax bill that was passed by the Senate and faces a House vote on Friday.

“Discrimination at USDA against Black farmers was rampant and severe,” said Boyd, so it was appropriate to direct loan forgiveness toward Black, Hispanic, Native American and other farmers of color. “To acknowledge and correct racism is not unconstitutional or racist.”

The USDA has acknowledged in court settlements in the past two decades that there was racial discrimination in its administration of its programs.

The assistance approved by the Senate on Sunday would address a larger group of farmers. It offers $3.1 billion in “immediate relief” to “distressed” borrowers of money through USDA direct or guaranteed loan programs, and $2.2. billion, in payments of up to $500,000 per producer, to “farmers, ranchers or forest landowners determined to have experienced discrimination” in USDA farm lending programs before last January 1.

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