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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack defended lending to minority farmers in a press conference on Wednesday, citing historical discrimination by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
President Biden’s coronavirus aid package, the American Rescue Plan, is estimated to be $ 4 billion to pay off up to 120% of the outstanding debts of Black, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American farmers by Jan. 1 American Farm Bureau Federation.
“I think you have to bring you back 20, 30 years when we know that socially disadvantaged producers have been discriminated against by the US Department of Agriculture. We know that. We have reimbursed people for these acts of discrimination in the past, but we never absolutely got along with each other dealt with the cumulative effect, “said Vilsack.
Vilsack’s comments came in response to a question about a suit made by white farmers who said they were unable to participate in the lending program because of their breed.
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“Second, if you look at the Covid aid packages that were passed and distributed by the USDA ahead of the US bailout, and one look at who disproportionately received the benefits of those Covid payments, it’s pretty clear that white farmers are pretty were well under this program because of the way it was structured and structured by size and production. I think there is a very legitimate reason for doing what we do, “continued the secretary.
The package also provides around $ 1 billion in equity commissions, agricultural training, improved land access and other aid to promote racial justice in agriculture.
The USDA settled billions of dollars in discrimination claims against minority farmers in 1999 and 2010.
Black farmers made up about a sixth of farmers in 1920, but by 2017 less than 2% of farms were owned by black producers USDA data.
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Vilsack claimed in March that only 0.1% of Covid farm aid under President Trump went to black farmers.
“The top 10 percent of the country’s farmers received 60 percent of the value of the Covid payments. And the bottom 10 percent received 0.26 percent,” Vilsack told the Washington Post.
Minority farmers have claimed for decades that they were wrongly denied government loans and other forms of assistance. Many of them complained that under his previous tenure – as Secretary of Agriculture during the Obama years – Vilsack had done little to make up for 14,000 discrimination complaints from the Bush administration. The Bush administration found discrimination in only one of these cases.
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“Under Vilsack, USDA employees excluded black farmers with outstanding discrimination complaints, many of which were never resolved. At the same time, USDA employees raised new complaints and misrepresented their frequency while continuing to discriminate against farmers,” a biennial investigation by The Counter found. “The department sent a smaller percentage of loan dollars to black farmers than it did under President Bush and then misleadingly used census data to improve their civil rights records.”
Fox News’ Evie Fordham contributed to this report.