WHEREAS, in 1920 there were nearly 1 million Black farmers in the United States. Today, according to the USDA due to this history of discrimination, it is estimated that there are less than 45,000 remaining Black farmers; and
WHEREAS, many black farmers across the nation experienced discrimination in their dealings with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies in their states. Across the nation, it was proven in court and the USDA later agreed, they were denied access to technical assistance, grants, low interest loans and other subsidies provided by the U.S. Government. On a national level, farm subsidies and other forms of assistance that were afforded to white farmers were not afforded to black farmers. Since they were denied government loans, grants, emergency or disaster assistance, and other aid, many black farmers lost their farms and homes; and
WHEREAS, black farmers nationwide joined in the Pigford v. Glickman decision, a class action discrimination law suit against the U S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) filed in federal court in 1997. It was referred to as "the most organized, largest civil rights case in the history of the country." That year, black farmers from at least five states held protests in front of the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC. Protested in front of the USDA were part of a strategy employed in later years as Black farmers sought to keep national attention focused on their plight. That year representatives of the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA), the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Independent Black Farmers and other associations representing Black farmers met with then President Bill Clinton and other administration officials at the White House. Some of the Black farm organization presidents also testified before the United States House Committee on Agriculture; and
WHEREAS, on December 8, 2010, President Barack Obama signed historic legislation funding settlement resources to discriminated against Black farmers known as "Pigford II", providing further settlement between the US Department of Agriculture and American Black farmers; and
WHEREAS, President Biden's massive stimulus relief package could pay billions of dollars to disadvantaged farmers – benefitting Black farmers in a way that some experts say no legislation has since the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and
WHEREAS, the $10.4 billion in the American Rescue Plan that will support agriculture, approximately half would go to farmers discriminated against, according to estimates from the Farm Bureau, an industry organization. About a quarter of disadvantaged farmers are Black. The money would provide debt relief as well as grants, training, education and other forms of assistance aimed at acquiring land; and
WHEREAS, the average farm operated by an African American is about 100 acres, compared with the national average of about 440 acres, according to the last farm census. The Center for American Progress found that in 2017, the average full-time White farmer brought in $17,190 in farm income, while the average full-time Black farmer received income of just $2,408; and
WHEREAS, Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock introduced the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act of 2021, which will provide $4 billion in direct debt forgiveness for "socially disadvantaged farmers" and another $1.01 billion will go to increasing support and resources for minority farmers which aims to provide immediate financial relief to Black, indigenous and Hispanic farmers; and
WHEREAS, The Justice for Black Farmers Act will:
- End Discrimination within USDA
- Take steps to once and for all end discrimination within USDA.
- Creates an independent civil rights oversight board to conduct reviews of any appeals of civil rights complaints filed against USDA, to investigate reports of discrimination within USDA, and to provide more effective oversight of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) County Committees.
- Creates an Equity Commission whose responsibilities include developing recommendations to reform FSA County Committees; and
- Puts reforms in place within the USDA Office of Civil Rights, including placing a moratorium on foreclosures during the pendency of civil rights complaints.
- Protect Remaining Black Farmers from land loss.
- The Act increases the funding authorization for the USDA re-lending program created in the 2018 Farm Bill to resolve farmland ownership and succession, or "heirs' property," issues.
- The Act provides funding for pro bono assistance, including legal assistance, succession planning and support for development of farmer cooperatives, to Black farmers.
- The Act will also create and fund a new bank to provide financing and grants to Black farmer and rancher cooperative financial institutions and will forgive USDA debt of Black farmers who filed claims in the Pigford litigation.
- Restore the Land Base Lost by Black Farmers
- Create Farm Conservation Corps
- Empower HBCUs and other Advocates for Black farmers
- Assist All Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers
- Enact System Reforms to Help All Farmers and Ranchers
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP urge President Biden and the Department of Agriculture to release all funds allocated in the American Recovery Act for Black farmers be distributed to Black-owned Banks and Credit Unions empowering them to provide the crucial service to Black Farmers and Black communities throughout the United States.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP will advocate for the thousands of Black farmers, their families and Black rural business owners not fully compensated by the first 2 Pigford settlements, statutes of limitation be set aside and those Black Farmers be allowed the opportunity for full compensation for damages done, including loss of farm land and other resources.
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP engage with Black farmer associations including the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA), the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund and other National and Regional Black Farm Associations to help advocate that the Biden Administration (Department of Agriculture) and the US Congress ensure that black farmers receive all restitution provided by the legislation.