The country’s reduced number of minority farmers are set to receive $ 5 billion in aid in the Covid-19 relief bill, reflecting Democrats’ emphasis on the lingering impact of racism and their battle to take control of the Senate.

At a time when much of Washington is obsessed with the influence of the moderate Democratic senator Joe manchin West Virginia, the new debt relief program specifically for black, Hispanic and Native American farmers also shows the political weight of Raphael Warnock. First-year black senator’s second-round victory in Georgia, as well as that of fellow Democrat Jon osoff, brought the Senate under Democratic control.

Raphael Warnock

Photographer: Stefani Reynolds / Bloomberg

“For too long, farmers of color have been left on their own, not getting the support they deserve from the USDA, making it even harder to recover from this pandemic,” Warnock, who was one of the driving forces behind the provision. , told the Senate, referring to the Ministry of Agriculture.

The idea sparked unified opposition from Senate Republicans, with all 49 GOP members present supporting an unsuccessful attempt to cut aid. Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania denounced the prospect of federal funds going to “good breed” farmers as “unconstitutional” and “outrageous.”

Read more: Biden’s giant stimulus to move home easily, Democrats say

President Joe bidenThe $ 1.9 trillion relief plan, slated for a final House vote on Tuesday, represents a dramatic reversal from the former president’s approach Donald trumpstimulate the economy, with spending heavily targeted at poor households and the middle class, which have been hit hard by the economic slowdown. It’s also a stark contrast to Trump’s tax overhaul, which mainly benefited businesses and the wealthy.

Aid to minority farmers, designed to counter a history of discrimination in agriculture ministry loans and aid, follows a presidential campaign shaped by the Black Lives Matter protests sparked by George floyddeath in custody and the disproportionate toll the pandemic has taken on African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.

WATCH: Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion package will cross the House when he addresses the bill on Tuesday, according to reports from Democratic lawmaker Kevin Cirilli.

(Source: Bloomberg)

Biden owes his presidency to African-American support for the Democratic primaries and his party’s control over the Senate in part because of the enthusiasm of black voters in Georgia mobilized by the former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.

The fact that one of the Biden administration’s earliest legislative advances on racial equity occurred in agriculture – a policy area typically dominated by agricultural state politicians who often represent an overwhelming majority of white constituencies – shows how the political constellation on agricultural policy has changed this year.

Representing David Scott of Georgia became the first black chair of the House agriculture committee. Representing Sanford Bishop Jr., also from Georgia, has just started his second term as head of the powerful Agricultural Credit Subcommittee, the first African-American to hold the post. Georgia has the fifth largest population of black farmers.

Read more: Scott to make history as the first chair of the Black House Farm panel

Warnock and Senator Cory booker from New Jersey this year joined the Senate Committee on Agriculture, only the second and third black members never to do that.

With a view to re-election in 2022 because he filled a vacant seat, Warnock may already point to a tangible victory for black farmers in his home state of Georgia.

Warnock, who is the pastor of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King jr.The Former Atlanta Church said the pandemic “has illuminated and exacerbated long-standing disparities” such as discrimination against minority farmers.

Black farm ownership has plunged over the past century amid a record of discrimination by USDA administrators in denying or slowing down loans and aid to minority farmers and sometimes violent intimidation by the part of white supremacists seeking to drive African Americans off the land as they seek to vote and other civil rights.

Many black farmers were also hampered by a system of property known as “heir ownership,” a holdover from the Jim Crow era in which a type of collective property was passed down, often to multiple relatives, without a will.

Read more: ‘Jim Crow’ land ownership spurs calls from black farmers in Biden

Multiple people sharing heir property make farmers vulnerable to a relative going to court to force a sale, said Thomas Mitchell, a professor of law at Texas A&M University. For decades, courts have systematically imposed obligations in heir property cases, especially in underprivileged communities, he said. And many African Americans did not have the means or the capacity to hire lawyers – or had a well-founded distrust of local courts.

Landowners of heirs often don’t recognize how disadvantaged they are, Mitchell said, calling the system “the current Jim Crow manifestation.”

A century ago, there were nearly a million black farmers in America, representing 14% of American farmers. In 2017, during the last agricultural census, the number had fallen to around 45,500, or 1.3% of the total number of producers. Black-operated farms accounted for just 4.7 million acres of farmland, or 0.5% of the total.

John Boyd Jr., the National Association of Black FarmersThe president of, and a fourth-generation Virginia farmer, described the targeted stimulus aid as “a drop in the bucket” of what is financially owed to farmers of color previously excluded from the agency’s programs. But he called it “the most important legislation” for black farmers since the Voting Rights Act.

The USDA has already settled class actions covering decades of discrimination filed, separately, on behalf of black, Hispanic and Native American farmers.

The coronavirus relief measure provides $ 4 billion for debt relief for minority farmers. Another billion dollars is spent in aid, including resolving heir property issues, grants to historically black colleges and universities, and funding a racial equity commission to “end” discrimination in the country. ‘USDA set up by Agriculture Secretary Biden, Tom vilsack.

Vilsack adopts new program

Vilsack, who served eight years as Barack obama, has been criticized by some advocates for not being aggressive enough in the fight against discrimination during his previous tenure as head of the department.

But he embraced the plan to help minority farmers when Warnock introduced it and worked on his behalf. He hailed the debt relief provision as “historic” in a statement released Saturday after the Senate passed the relief plan.

“For generations, socially disadvantaged farmers have struggled to achieve full success due to systemic discrimination and a cycle of debt,” said Vilsack. “In addition to the economic pain caused by the pandemic, farmers in socially disadvantaged communities face a disproportionate share of Covid-19 infection rates, hospitalizations, deaths and economic damage. “

–With the help of Elizabeth elkin.

To contact journalists on this story:
Mike Dorning in Washington at [email protected];
Megan Boyanton in Washington at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Joe sobczyk at [email protected]

John harney

© 2021 Bloomberg LP All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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