Luján Cosponsors Legislation to Provide Direct COVID-19 Relief for Farmers of Color
The Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act would provide $5 billion in direct payments to historically-underserved farmers of color to pay off federal loans, expand land access and opportunities
Washington, D.C.– Today, U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) joined Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) in introducing legislation to deliver direct COVID-19 relief to Black, Indigenous, and Hispanic farmers and other agricultural producers of color, as well as address longstanding inequity in agriculture. The Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act would provide $5 billion to America’s Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and farmers of color who, in addition to being hard hit by the current public health and economic emergencies, have long struggled to keep their farms and ownership of their land in rural communities due to discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other government agencies. The legislation follows the U.S. Senate’s passage of a budget resolution that paves the way for Congress to provide $1.9 trillion in critical relief and aid to help hardworking American families, and will be included in the pandemic relief package.
“As a small farmer, I know that farming is a tough job on any day and COVID-19 has exacerbated the challenges facing New Mexico’s farmers and ranchers. Yet, Hispanic, Native American, and Black farmers in New Mexico did not receive their fair share of COVID-19 relief under the last administration,” said Luján. “Sadly, this treatment did not come as a surprise to New Mexico’s farmers of color, who have experienced discrimination by the USDA for generations. This legislation is an important step toward addressing this historic injustice, and it provides farmers and ranchers of color with the targeted relief needed to survive the pandemic and thrive in the years to come.”
Historically, Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, and farmers of color have struggled to keep their farms and ownership of land in rural communities due to discrimination by USDA and other government agencies. Black farmers in America alone have lost more than 12 million acres of farmland over the last century, mostly since the 1950s: according to data from USDA, while at its peak in 1920 there were approximately 925,000 Black farmers in the United States, accounting for roughly one-sixth of U.S. farmers, by the year 2017 USDA’s Census of Agriculture reported there were only about 35,000 farms with Black producers — just 1.7% of the total number in the U.S. Additionally, hundreds of millions of acres of farmland have been lost across all communities of color due to discriminatory practices at the federal level, and many farmers of color who remain in agriculture struggle with burdensome debt.
To address this discrimination and land loss, the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act provides $4 billion in direct relief payments to help farmers of color pay-off outstanding USDA farm loan debts and related taxes, and help them respond to the economic impacts of the pandemic. Additionally, the legislation provides another $1 billion fund 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 & 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.
For more information on the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act, see the fact sheet HERE.