Should Congress implement reform within the USDA to protect Black farmers and ranchers?

Awaiting Vote
Bill Summary

This bill seeks to recognize and address the inherent discrimination against Black farmers and ranchers via six main USDA initiatives: 1) a civil rights board that will review and put a moratorium on civil rights complaints; 2) pro bono assistance that will protect Black farmers from additonal land loss; 3) Equitable Land Access Service, which provides up to 160 acres to Black farmers; 4) the Farm Conservation Corps, a farming apprenticeship program; 5) funding for HBCUs to enhance their agricultural programs, and nonprofits supporting Black farmers; 6) economic priority for the Conservation Stewardship Program and Rural Energy for America Program. Furthermore, the act reforms the meatpacking industry so that large companies cannot abuse small, family farmers. Sponsor: Sen. Cory A. Booker (Democrat, New Jersey) View full bill text ➔

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Opponents say

    "It’s a bill so loaded with oversights, anti-solidarity, and implied acceptance of settler-colonial agricultural ethics that it can’t even be viewed as incremental progress or a step in the right direction. Instead, the bill simply represents a coarse attempt to add Black people to an already broken agricultural system, largely at the expense of Indigenous people, while opening up a bonanza of cash to Black non-profits built into the legislation as power brokers." Source: Chris Newman (Choptico Band of Piscataway Indians)

    "The sudden, abrupt payoff of any category of guaranteed loans could have adverse consequences if not implemented in a manner that minimizes disruptions to lenders participating in USDA’s guaranteed loan programs or acting as secondary market purchasers of the loan guarantees. USDA’s implementation of this provision should help ensure lenders are incentivized to continue meeting guaranteed loan demand in the future while ensuring the overall reliability and predictability of USDA guaranteed loan programs." Source: American Bankers Association 

    "It’s hard for me to tell [farmers in my district] that help is on the way but only if you’re a certain skin color. It seems like that’s discrimination in itself." Source: Rep. Scott DesJarlais (Republican, Tennessee, District 4)

Proponents say

    "When it comes to farming and agriculture, we know that there is a direct connection between discriminatory policies within the USDA and the enormous land loss we have seen among Black farmers over the past century. The Justice for Black Farmers Act will address and correct USDA discrimination and take bold steps to forgive debt and restore the land that has been lost in order to empower a new generation of Black farmers to succeed and thrive. As a new member on the Agriculture committee, I am proud to re-introduce this landmark legislation alongside  my colleagues as we work to correct this historic injustice." Source: Sen. Cory Booker (Democrat, New Jersey) 

    "For decades, racist policies have robbed Black farmers of the economic opportunity to thrive in our country's agricultural industry. I'm glad to cosponsor Senator Booker's bill, which goes a long way toward restoring and protecting property rights of Black farmers, rooting out discriminatory policies, and providing Black farmers with the necessary tools to succeed." Source: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Democrat, Massachusetts) 

    "Black farmers and ranchers have been historically excluded in agricultural industries. Inequities in federal policies have stripped them of their land and denied them federal aid. It is not only our responsibility to investigate this systemic discrimination, but we must end and correct it, so that the next generation of Black farmers can grow – especially as we help farmers across the country recover from the economic crisis. The Justice for Black Farmers Act will put an end to discriminatory practices that have harmed Black agricultural producers for more than a hundred years." Source: Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand (Democrat, New York)