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Black Farmers Say Inflation Act Is Betrayal Of Promise Of Debt Relief
National Black Farmers Association President Urge Congress to Approve Settlement Funding WASHINGTON, DC - Sept. 16: Baskerville, Va., farmer John W. Boyd Jr. after he arrived on Capitol Hill on a borrowed tractor to urge the U.S. Senate and President Obama to pass $1.15 billion in funding for a settlement in a 1997 case against the Agriculture Department. The case, Pigford v. Glickman, settled out of court 11 years ago; it held that black farmers were being denied government farm loans and support from federal programs because of their race. Boyd is also founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association. He plans to make the ride across the Roosevelt Bridge from Arlington each weekday until Congress recesses in October. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images) Scott J. Ferrell / Contributor
Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Contributor/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images

Black farmers are starting to wonder if they will receive the debt forgiveness that they had been promised after a measure was passed last year to prioritize them for such action.

When the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act passed last year with the American Rescue Plan, it provided $4 billion in debt forgiveness to farmers of color from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“This is a big deal for us,” John Boyd, Jr., president of the National Black Farmers Association, told CBS MoneyWatch at the time. “We see this as a great opportunity to help thousands.”

The concept was met with pushback, and white farmers brought forward at least six federal lawsuits against the measure, since it didn’t allow them to try to receive the funds due to their racial group. Those suits are still pending.

The debt forgiveness measure, however, was taken out of the inflation act before many farmers could get the money. The new Inflation Reduction Act gives $3.1 billion to “distressed borrowers” and an additional $2.2 billion to farmers who have “experienced discrimination” from the USDA, while taking race off as a measure of eligibility.

In a release, Boyd said he was “very, very disappointed in this legislative action,” after reviewing the final legislation passed by the Senate.

“I’m prepared to fight for debt relief for Black, Native American and other farmers of color all the way to the Supreme Court. I’m not going to stop fighting this,” he said, adding, “Discrimination at USDA against Black Farmers was rampant and severe. Section 1005 Loan Repayment program was a necessary step towards fixing those harms. To acknowledge and correct racism is not unconstitutional or racist.”

“That’s a broken promise and a broken contract between the U.S. government and Black farmers,” he said. “It’s a huge loss for us and other Black farmers who have been waiting on this.”

Boyd wants President Joe Biden to put forward a moratorium on farm foreclosures.

“That’s the least he can do,” he said. “A farmer shouldn’t be losing his farm.”

Black farmers could still meet the requirements to get a sizable portion of the funds offered under the inflation measure, but CBS News reported it’s not entirely evident if their applications will now be lost in a larger pile of applications. Boyd told the outlet it will all come down to how the USDA determines the eligibility.

The USDA told CBS Moneywatch that they haven’t decided what farmers will need to provide in order to show evidence that they have experienced discrimination or are distressed.

“USDA intends to move expeditiously and our teams are already examining the best paths forward and our options for complying with the language,” a spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch last week.

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