In a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock is trying to find a way to protect Black farmers and all economically distressed farmers from losing their farms by ensuring debt relief. Scroll down to read the letter. Click the tab to learn more about Sen. Warnock's efforts.
Sen. Raphael Warnock Letter to USDA Sec. Vilsack
Sen. Warnock is concerned that famers who anticipated relief from USDA may now be subject to potential adverse actions through no fault of their own. In this letter he asks Sec. Vilsack continue to have USDA shield these farmers from adverse actions and provide clear guidance to farmers on the status of their loans.
"I’m Just a Layman in Pursuit of Justice", chronicles the injustices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, also known as ‘the last plantation,’ and the lived experiences of Black farmers who chose to fight against discrimination.
Click the button below to watch, “I’m Just a Layman in Pursuit of Justice,” (trailer), which is a documentary that chronicles the injustices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, also known as ‘the last plantation,’ and the lived experiences of Black farmers who chose to fight against discrimination.
In conjunction with the 9th Annual Whistleblower Summit and Film Festival, the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees, led by President Emeritus, Lawrence Lucas will be presenting a panel discussion on “Systemic Discrimination at the US Department of Agriculture.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 14, 2021
Chairman David Scott Statement on Confirmation of Deputy Secretary for USDA
WASHINGTON -- House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott issued the following statement in response to the Senate approving Dr. Jewel H. Bronaugh as the Deputy Secretary for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):
“Thank you to my colleagues in the Senate for approving Jewel Bronaugh as the Deputy Secretary at USDA. Her on the ground experience as the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner will be vital in ensuring that USDA is working directly with their state partners to the benefit of our farmers and ranchers,” said Chairman Scott. “I would also like to note the historic nature of this confirmation, with Dr. Bronaugh being the first African American woman to serve in this critical role at such a pivotal moment for Black farmers. I look forward to working with her in the years to come.”
1301 Longworth House Office Building | 202-225-2171 | agriculture.house.gov | @HouseAgDems
FEBRUARY 09, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tina Smith (D-MN), Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced landmark legislation aimed at addressing and correcting historic discrimination within the U.S. Department of Agriculture in federal farm assistance and lending that has caused Black farmers to lose millions of acres of farmland and robbed Black farmers and their families of the hundreds of billions of dollars of inter-generational wealth that land represented. Senator Booker originally introduced the legislation in 2020.
In 1920 there were nearly 1 million Black farmers in the United States. Today, due to this history of discrimination, it is estimated that there are less than 50,000 remaining Black farmers.
The Justice for Black Farmers Act will enact policies to end discrimination within the USDA, protect remaining Black farmers from losing their land, provide land grants to create a new generation of Black farmers and restore the land base that has been lost, and implement systemic reforms to help family farmers across the United States.
"Overtly discriminatory and unjust federal policy has robbed Black families in the United States of the ability to build and pass on intergenerational wealth,” said Senator Booker. “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.”
“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,” said Senator Warren.
“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,” said Senator Gillibrand, member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “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. I thank Senator Booker for his leadership on this issue and I’m proud to cosponsor this legislation to make farming more equitable and inclusive.”
“We have to acknowledge that the USDA has a history of institutionalized discrimination against Black farmers and farmers of color. That is the history we cannot look away from,” said Senator Smith. “At a recent Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, I brought up the need to create equitable credit access for diverse farmers—including the Black, Hmong, Latino and Native American farmers in my state of Minnesota—because these are the types things we need to be working to address. This historic legislation is needed so we can help create a future that empowers more farmers to succeed.”
“The Justice for Black Farmers Act is essential legislation that will help level the playing field for Black farmers in Georgia and across our nation who for too long have been denied the true promise of the American Dream. While we work on getting immediate relief to farmers of color to help them move behind this current health and economic crisis, I look forward to fighting alongside Senator Booker to get this bill passed and signed into law,” said Senator Reverend Warnock.
“The Justice for Black Farmers Act is the most ambitious legislative proposal ever developed to address historic and ongoing discrimination against Black farmers,” said John Boyd, Founder and President of the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA). “As NBFA and the Environmental Working Group recently documented, Black farmers have been systemically denied access to land, subsidies, loans and other critical tools through government and private discrimination, and the institutional racism that has driven Black land loss is being reinforced through the USDA’s broken policies. By providing new access to land and credit and providing debt relief, the Justice for Black Farmers Act will help right these historic wrongs. By providing new oversight and accountability within the USDA, the Justice for Black Farmers Act will help address the roots of the USDA’s racist history. By making an unprecedented investment in training through historically Black colleges and universities and groups like the National Black Farmers Association, the Justice for Black Farmers Act will ensure that Black farmers have the tools they need to succeed. These reforms are long overdue. We applaud the leadership of Sens. Booker, Warren, Gillibrand, Warnock and Smith, and we urge Congress to act swiftly to address USDA’s long history of discrimination against Black Farmers.”
"The Justice For Black Farmers Act is an incredibly important step towards addressing the harm that Black farmers and land stewards have suffered and continue to endure,” said Dara Cooper, Executive Director of the National Black Food and Justice Alliance. “This is one very important opportunity towards addressing the state of emergency that Black farmers and land stewards continue to face. Considering Black farming communities have been reduced by an alarming 98%, we are sounding the alarm that it is long past due to address the unfinished business that farmer activists have been calling for quite some time. Let us all rally behind this important piece of legislation and make sure it passes. It is the least we can do for Black farmers and our failing food system."
Specifically, the Justice for Black Farmers Act will:
OPEN LETTER TO VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN
September 6, 2020
Subject: Civil Rights, Programs, and Employment at the Department of Agriculture (USDA)
It has become very apparent that the working relationship between the Biden Policy Team and USDA Coalition of Minority Employees, Justice for Black Farmers, and Advocacy Groups (rural and urban) has been terminated. However, we had worked vigorously and hoped for a better outcome. We have found very discouraging the absence of a solution driven civil rights policy similar to that of the Elizabeth Warren plan, Addressing Discrimination and Ensuring Equity for Farmers of Color, August 2019, located here: https://elizabethwarren.com/plans/equity-farmers-of-color.
We have requested on many occasions that you adopt this policy. Our anticipation was to develop a policy that would serve the good of Black farmers, minority farmers, and USDA employees. Senator Sanders’ commitment to Black farmers and civil rights is similar to Senator Warren’s plan. His plan is found here: https://berniesanders.com/issues/revitalizing-rural-america.
Some of these factors are included in his comprehensive plan for Black farmers. His entire plan is found as an attachment below. He was fully committed to systemic change within the USDA. The Biden campaign does not include these issues. We mistakenly thought that the Biden Policy Team was searching for real solutions. When you presented us with the Biden Team policy on July 28, we expected further discussion.
However, we were met with defensive posturing and then silence. Shortly after the Democratic National Convention we discovered published articles that partially contained a false narrative. Here is the policy that you proposed to the Nation: https://joebiden.com/racial-economic-equity.Additionally, we were insulted by the policy team’s position that our request to address Black farmers issues was unconstitutional. This is a marathon from the truth. Politics, politicians, and others have operated in an “American systems built on the notion that Black lives don’t matter as much as others.”
That is what your response is saying to us. To invoke the constitution to deny us opportunity provided to others goes totally against our sense of justice. That is the same constitution that did not include us from it's very beginning. We actually had surmised that Tom Vilsack’s team was shaping your rural agriculture policy. Since the Clinton administration civil rights at the USDA has continued to deteriorate. Our position is influenced by the following and more. Jillian Hishaw’s book, “The Impact of U.S. Land Theft,” will address Black land loss at the hands of egregious practices within the USDA. The documentary, “I’m Just a Layman in Pursuit of Justice: Black Farmers Fight Against the USDA,” produced by Shoun Hill and Waymon Hinson, chronicles stories of Black farmers who prevailed against the USDA and DOJ between 1997 and 1999. The investigative reporting of Stucki and Rosenberg’s article, “How the USDA Distorted Data to Conceal Decades of Discrimination Against Black Farmers,” in The Counter which critiques the Vilsack administration is found at: https://thecounter.org/usda-black-farmers-discrimination-tomvilsack-reparations-civil-rights.
Further, this Op-Ed piece from the Kansas City Star addresses the inadequacies of the Vilsack administration: https://www.kansascity.com/opinion/readersopinion/guest-commentary/article240721906.html
Rural America is intricately connected to urban America. Many in rural America have a difficult time believing that the Biden campaign cares about them. Your campaign has a battle in overcoming this real and perceived attitude that you are taking US for granted. Such an obvious rejection of the issues we shared with you and that you ignored…. continues to perpetuate a legacy of discrimination that has long been known by many, both inside and outside USDA.
Black farmers and employees deserve justice that is long overdue. We will continue to demand justice for Black farmers and employees. Black Lives Matter, Lawrence Lucas, President Emeritus USDA Coalition of Minority Employees Justice for Black Farmers www.agcoalition.orgJustice for Black Farmers justice4Bf@gmail.com 856-910-2399 In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.