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Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act Introduced

The Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act has been introduced in the United States Senate. The bill would provide $5 billion in aid to farmers of color affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as generational inequalities in agriculture. In addition, the bill includes provisions that would provide up to 160 acres to existing and aspiring black farmers.

“We are pleased to see the introduction of the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act yesterday in the Senate, a bill that will bring much-needed economic assistance during the pandemic and begin to advance equity for farmers of color,” said the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Chief of Staff Katherine Ferguson, in a press release. “It’s a bill crafted to address the immediate need for debt relief among those who have been marginalized and are hurting while also advancing long-term issues such as Heirs’ Property, tackling the root causes of discrimination via an Equity Commission, and investing in building back a new generation of farmers of color.”

The legislation aims to:

Provide another $1 billion in funds to support activities at USDA that will root out systemic racism, provide technical and legal assistance to agricultural communities of color, and fund under-resourced programs that will shape the future for farmers and communities of color. Specifically, this $1 billion fund will include:

  • Grants and loans to improve land access and address heirs’ property issues;
  • Support for one or more legal centers focused on agricultural legal issues of farmers of color;
  • Pilot projects that focus on land acquisition, financial planning, technical assistance, and credit;
  • A racial equity commission and related activities to address systemic racism across USDA;
  • Support for research, education, and extension at HBCUs and other institutions of higher education that historically serve communities of color;
  • Scholarships at 1890’s land grant universities and for indigenous students attending land grant institutions;
  • Outreach, mediation, financial training, capacity building training, cooperative development training and support, and other technical assistance; and
  • Assistance to farmers, ranchers, or forest landowners of color that are former farm loan borrowers and suffered related adverse actions, or past discrimination or bias.

This bill was introduced by Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), and Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). The Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act is supported by the Rural Coalition, National Black Farmers Association (NBFA), Black Belt Justice Center, and Black Farmers’ Appeal: Cancel Pigford Debt Campaign.