USDA Appears Before House Ag Committee Hearing on Discrimination

Mar 26, 2021  | 3 min  | Ep4632

The issue of race discrimination in agriculture has been debated for decades and continued, again, as the Secretary of Agriculture was called into the House Agriculture Committee to discuss the topic.

John Torpy has more.

Secretary Tom Vilsack, United States Department of Agriculture: “Let me be clear. There is no place for discrimination at the USDA. None, nor for that matter anywhere. This historic moment to advance equity must not be lost. And I intend to do everything I can to ensure that it isn't.”

      With those opening remarks, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack laid out his plan for addressing decades old claims of discrimination by the United States Department of Agriculture as he appeared before the House Agricultural Committee.
Rep. David Scott, Chairman, House Agriculture Committee: “We all are very pleased to have the opportunity today, to examine this topic, which is deeply imbedded in each of our hearts, both Democrats and Republicans here, about the plight, of our Black farmers.”
      
      The virtual hearing was held to learn how the Biden Administration will use the $4 billion allocated for the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act. As part of the $1.9 trillion dollar coronavirus relief package, these funds were set aside to relieve some of the debt being experienced by socially disadvantaged farmers and farmers of color. One of the motivations behind the infusion of cash is to help to level the playing field for a shrinking number of Black farmers. 
Dr. John Boyd, President, The National Black Farmers Association: “Black farmers don't trust the United States Department of Agriculture, which has really hurt us in participation. And it's because of all the discrimination that I and others have, have faced.” 

      Dr. John Boyd, President of the National Black Farmers Association, has been speaking out about inequality and racism by USDA employees since before the landmark Pigford v Glickman discrimination case was decided in the late 1990s. Despite the settlement, accusations of discrimination continued to be leveled at the department.
Secretary Tom Vilsack, United States Department of Agriculture: “At the end of the day, this whole purpose is to try to get this done as quickly as possible, as effectively as possible, and to provide, uh, farmers enough information and outreach so they can make informed decisions about their direct loan and the tax implications. And we can settle up their guaranteed loan without any further disruption.”

      An additional $1billion has been set aside to create a racial equity commission that will address longstanding discrimination across USDA. Among the multiple uses for the money is to provide assistance in overcoming barriers to accessing programs that many farmers of color have experienced in the past.
      For Market to Market, I’m John Torpy.

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