House Bill Would Bar Racial Favoritism at USDA


By Chuck Abbott, Successful Farming - 4/2/2021


Motivated by opposition to $4 billion in debt relief for minority farmers, two Republican representatives announced legislation on Thursday to prevent the USDA from considering race or gender in operating its programs. “All American farmers constitute a minority, and they are hurting right now as a direct result of the pandemic,” said one of the sponsors, Rep. Burgess Owens of Utah.


The bill would prevent actions such as the USDA loan forgiveness plan for socially disadvantaged farmers that was authorized by Congress in early March, said a spokesperson for Rep. Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin, the bill’s other sponsor. In a statement, Tiffany said, “It is fundamentally unfair for the government to treat people differently based on immutable characteristics.”


Debt relief has stirred emotions in farm country, which is often politically conservative. Advocates say it would buffer the effect of decades of discriminatory practices — the USDA acknowledged bias against Black farmers in the so-called Pigford settlement of 1999 — and help compensate for the lion’s share of $23 billion in pandemic aid to agriculture in the past year going to large, predominantly white farmers. Foes say loan forgiveness, by leaving out whites, is reverse discrimination...


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