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Are you socially disadvantaged?

Are you socially disadvantaged?

The Biden Administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill includes $5 billion for financial aid to farmers of color who allegedly have been discriminated against by USDA. U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia was able to insert his Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act into the bill.

Sen. Warnock said he wanted to “…ensure equity in our recovery efforts and address longstanding injustices that have left some communities behind for far too long…”

According to one study, there were approximately 1 million black farmers in the United States in 1920. Today there are approximately 50,000 black farmers, according to Black Enterprise.

The United States Code has a new section entitled Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach 7 U.S. Sec. 2279.  According to the code, “The term socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher means a farmer or rancher who is a member of a socially disadvantaged group.” The code section defines a socially disadvantaged group as those “…whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities.”

Socially disadvantaged includes veterans

There is another term in the $5 billion statute defining “a veteran farmer or rancher.” The veteran farmer or rancher is defined to be someone who served in the armed forces but “has not” operated a farm or ranch or “has operated a farm or ranch for not more than 10 years…”

Socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers will also be eligible obtain education and training from historically Black colleges, Indian tribal community colleges, Alaska native cooperative colleges, Hispanic servicing institutions or any other institution of higher education that has experience in agricultural education or has in the past sought to serve “…socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in a region.”

As you can see, a number of colleges and universities will claim a portion of the new monies.

New research centers

The new law also creates for the academic community new disadvantaged farmers and ranchers research centers. It appears from the new law that all these research centers must be given to colleges or universities established under an act in 1890. This would be most of the Black colleges and universities. In addition to the colleges and universities getting money, the new law says there must be a “peer review” which the Ag Secretary must use to make grants to colleges and universities.

A new set of academics will populate this requirement under the new law at USDA. The Secretary of Agriculture will be required to establish new farmer and rancher education teams to develop educational programs and workshops for beginning farmers and ranchers “in diverse geographical areas of the United States.”

In addition to all of these requirements, the Secretary will be required to appoint a new advisory committee on beginning farmers and ranchers. There will be another advisory committee established at USDA for minority farmers as well as a Tribal Advisory Committee.

Money from CCC

Then there is a section in the bill entitled MANDATORY FUNDING. This funding appears to be in addition to the billions already required. According to the new statute, the Secretary of Agriculture must obtain funds from Commodity Credit Corporation. Between $30 million to $50 million for each year up until 2023 and “…each fiscal year thereafter.”

This is some spending bill for socially disadvantaged minorities. Socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers and apparently veterans seem to have three years from the date of signing of this legislation to submit an application for assistance.

The American Farm Bureau Federation declares that only $4 billion will go for direct payments to retire outstanding debt by socially disadvantaged farmers and approximately $1 billion will go to the training and education for the academic community. As you would expect, this legislation for socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers has received a mixed review.