INSTITUTE INDEX: Debt relief is on the way for Black farmers

Participants in a producers' round table held last month at Virginia State University listened as U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Jewel Bronaugh discussed details of the recently approved COVID-19 relief bill. A provision sponsored by Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia includes billions of dollars in debt relief for the nation's Black farmers, who have long experienced discrimination in USDA programs. (USDA/FPAC photo by Preston Keres via Flickr.)

In the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the COVID-19 stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden earlier this year, amount set aside for the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act sponsored by U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia to provide debt relief and root out systemic racism from federal farm programs — some of the most significant legislation for Black farmers since the Civil Rights Act of 1964: $5 billion

Month in which eligible borrowers will begin receiving payments: 6/2021

Percent of outstanding debt held by Black and other farmers of color that the payments will cover: up to 120*

Percent of Black-owned U.S. farmland that's been lost over the past century, most of it since the 1950s: 90

Number of acres of farmland that loss translates to: 12 million

Number of Black farmers there were in the U.S. a century ago: nearly 1 million

Number there are today: about 49,000

Number of Black farmers who have been driven into foreclosure by debts to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whose racist lending practices were the target of a class-action lawsuit settled in 1999: 17,000

Under the new law, number of farmers of color who will have their debts paid off: nearly 16,000

Date on which Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, acting as a private citizen, filed a federal lawsuit to halt the payments, calling them discriminatory against white farmers: 4/26/2021

Rank of that suit among the first challenging Biden administration policies to be sponsored by America First Legal, recently founded by Trump political advisor Stephen Miller and other Trump administration officials as a conservative alternative to the American Civil Liberties Union: 1

Year in which Sid Miller, reacting to a Facebook post about his hometown not allowing Sons of Confederate Veterans to fly Confederate flags at a parade honoring U.S. military veterans, responded, "Get a rope": 2019

Date on which a group of white farmers also filed suit against the program in federal court in Wisconsin, where just .07% of agricultural producers are Black: 4/29/2021

* The additional 20% is for paying off any taxes owed on the debt relief payments.

(Click on figure to go to source.)