(Washington, D.C.) — The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law released a video Thursday, highlighting the decades of longstanding racial discrimination experienced by Black farmers in the administration of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) loan programs. Black farmers are in desperate need of the $4 billion in debt relief promised in the American Rescue Plan Act. Without the promised debt relief they stand to lose their farms, lands, and livelihoods.
Section 1005 of the American Rescue Plan was designed to provide debt relief to Black farmers, and other farmers of color who are deemed “socially disadvantaged” due to decades of well-documented discrimination at the hands of the USDA.
The video features first-hand accounts from members of The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, a non-profit cooperative association of Black farmers, landowners, and cooperatives and their staff detailing the racial discrimination in the USDA loan programs. In the video one farmer describes how his farming equipment was defaced with a Ku Klux Klan abbreviation preventing him from selling the equipment.
“Section 1005 is an attempt to address our country’s discriminatory treatment of Black farmers,” said Dorian Spence, director of Special Litigation and Advocacy for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Through systemic racism in lending, Black farmers, once the backbone of our agriculture system, are having their livelihoods wiped out without promised relief.”
Facing unfair loan terms, mistreatment by the USDA, and discrimination at every turn, Black farmers are currently less than 1% of all farmers in the country. As a result, the number of Black farmers in America has dropped significantly — plummeting by 98% over the last century. In 1920, one out of every seven farms was owned by a Black farmer. However, since 1992, Black farmers have owned only one out of every 100 farms in the country. Earlier in March Black farmers moved closer to being able to defend the USDA debt relief program after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit reversed a district court ruling denying them the right to intervene in the Miller v. Vilsack lawsuit.
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund is represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Public Counsel, and pro bono counsel Winston & Strawn LLP.
View the Standing with Black Farmers video here.
To learn more about the our case click here.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes.