Newly elected Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia introduced a $5 billion Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act as part of the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief stimulus package.
It aims to provide immediate financial relief to Black, indigenous and Hispanic farmers. The bill would provide direct payments to farmers of color and allocate $1 billion to address systemic racism at the U.S. Agriculture Department, provide legal assistance to farmers of color, and grants and loans to improve land access for minorities.
Discriminatory lending practices, often at local USDA offices, have denied Black farmers access to funds needed to operate, maintain and purchase farmland, resulting in a loss of $120 billion in farmland value.
The systematic denial of federal assistance has led to Black farmers’ long-held suspicions of the USDA, and President Joe Biden’s administration has pledged to address past injustices.
Warnock’s bill is crafted to address the immediate need for debt relief among those who have been marginalized while also advancing long-term issues.
This direct relief is designed to address some of the most recent hardships caused by Donald Trump’s trade wars and combat the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Senator Cory Booker introduced a more comprehensive bill, The Justice for Black Farmers Act.
Booker’s bill would establish a new agency within the USDA to purchase land and convey grants of up to 160 acres to eligible Black individuals.
It also would create a new Socially Disadvantaged Farmer and Rancher Bank to offer new avenues of lending for farmers once turned away from USDA programs. The senator from New Jersey views his bill as a way to help correct some wrongs levied against Black Farmers, stating, “Overtly discriminatory and unjust federal policy has robbed Black families in the United States of the ability to build and pass on intergenerational wealth.”
As many in congress are focused on saving Main Street, rescuing airlines, and protecting corporate interest, the freshman Senator and his counterpart from New Jersey are trying to save those who feed the country.