**FILE** President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (Courtesy of Joe Biden via Twitter)
**FILE** President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (Courtesy of Joe Biden via Twitter)

The Biden-Harris administration has unveiled a $2.2 billion relief initiative aimed at providing support to Black farmers and other individuals who have faced discrimination within federal government lending programs.

The Inflation Reduction Act, part of Biden’s commitment to addressing historical injustices, includes a total of $5.3 billion dedicated to offering relief to tens of thousands of farmers across the country.

Of the allocated funds, $3.1 billion reportedly will be used to assist distressed borrowers in paying off their farm debts without losing their land or becoming ineligible for future assistance.

An additional $2.2 billion will be allocated specifically to farmers who have suffered discrimination through USDA farm programs.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that applications are now being accepted for the Discrimination Financial Assistance Program, which aims to provide financial aid to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who have experienced discrimination in USDA farm lending prior to 2021.

“The opening of the application process is an important step in delivering on our commitment to providing financial assistance to those who faced discrimination in USDA farm lending, as swiftly and efficiently as possible,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack emphasized.

The initiative comes after decades of Black farmers accusing the USDA of discrimination and being denied loans crucial for their livelihoods and land preservation.

A study conducted in May 2022 revealed that Black farmers had lost over $326 billion in land value throughout the 20th century.

The Washington Informer reported in 2022 that researchers considered that figure to be a conservative estimate of the actual financial impact racist practices have had on Black American farmers since 1920.

Biden issued an executive order last year, instructing the USDA to establish a 

15-member independent equity commission aimed at rectifying discrimination within its policies and practices concerning Black farmers.

Under the initial Build Back Better plan, the Biden administration said it wanted to allocate significant funds to support Black farmers.

However, the plan was scuttled after white farmers filed lawsuits claiming that the earmarking of funds specifically for Black farmers amounted to discrimination.

The legal action has resulted in the tying up of $4 billion as the administration continues to defend the action in court.

Further, a 2021 report from ProPublica also shed light on the systematic discrimination faced by Black farmers at the hands of various federal agencies, including the USDA.

The report detailed how the USDA impeded Black farmers’ access to critical federal funds through discriminatory loan denials and deliberate delays in financial aid.

“If you are Black and you’re born south of the Mason-Dixon Line and you tried to farm, you’ve been discriminated against,” Lloyd Wright, the director of the USDA Office of Civil Rights under Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and a Black 

Virginia farmer, stated in the report.

In an earlier interview with the Informer, John Wesley Boyd Jr., founder, and president of the National Black Farmers Association in Bakersville, Virginia, added, 

“The oldest occupation in this country for Black people is farming. But from slavery through Jim Crow, the USDA, and the banks – all these things put together means we are facing extinction.”

Boyd added:

“What’s troubling is when the brown bear, the black bear, and the bald eagle were facing extinction, Congress put harsh laws in place until their numbers came back up. So why can’t they do the same thing for the oldest occupation in history for Black people, which is farming?”

The White House said the launch of the $2.2 billion relief initiative represents a significant step towards rectifying the historical injustices faced by Black farmers and marks the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to addressing systemic discrimination in federal lending programs.

With the Discrimination Financial Assistance Program now accepting applications, eligible farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners should now have access to needed financial assistance.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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1 Comment

  1. Congressional Staffer: Good morning. Thanks for reaching out. Yes we have been watching the brick and mortar openings and noticed that there wasn’t one in VA.

    By any chance have you heard any feedback from farmers who have called the call center?

    I am also going to reach out to the USDA to learn more about the in person events. It looks like they have a handful planned for state fairs and conferences but nothing planned in VA, yet. The website says they will be updating that schedule as they add more events.
    We have been excluded from this process. We have no more information that what we receive by going on their website.

    My Response: We have questions that remain unanswered.

    This is a flawed process and a mockery of justice.

    Is there a review & appeal process or are decisions final?

    Who is making these decisions?

    What are the levels of financial assistance up to $500,000?

    How will they vet these claims and have checks to farmers (not those who attempted to farm???) by the first part of 2024?

    Where is the congressional oversight?

    How are these farmers expected to pay to attend State Fairs to file out an application? That’s an information/advertisement opportunity to say they reached 10,000s of people. That’s not direct technical assistance or a sit down let me help you complete the application process.

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