September 19, 2023

Department of Agriculture relieves debt of black and minority farmers

The US Department of Agriculture has started advising about 13,000 socially disadvantaged farmers that it will provide loan repayment assistance based on an estimated $ 4 billion in the US bailout.

Black farmers and other minorities have faced discrimination from government agencies and businesses. Historically, black farmers have lost 85% of their land to racial violence and foreclosures. Reports show that the benefits of the federal bailout given to farmers under Donald Trump’s administration – which totaled $ 28 billion – mainly went to white farmers.

Dewayne Goldmon, senior racial equity adviser at the US Department of Agriculture, sees this loan repayment program as the first step in bridging the economic divide between black and minority farmers and their white counterparts.

Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal spoke to Goldmon about racial disparities in agriculture and how federal aid can bring greater fairness to the industry. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Dewayne Goldmon: As a farmer myself, I can say with a lot of confidence that we would much rather be paid from fair market prices rather than some sort of subsidy that is used to supplement unfair prices, if you will. , or downward pressure on the markets. And so there are some pretty glaring gaps that exist in the support or subsidies paid to black farmers versus our white neighbors. And so the awareness of the whole situation is quite high.

Kai Ryssdal: What happens then, as black farmers and other farmers of color face these price pressures, is their debt increases. And the [Joe] The Biden administration has launched a debt relief plan for black farmers. And I wonder what your response is to the white farmers who say, in essence, can’t do that, man. If you are offering debt relief, it has to be for everyone.

Goldmon: Well, that logically sounds like, well, we’ve had cases that were supposed to deal with that. And they were supposed to take care of it. But they did not take into account these cumulative impacts. If you only look at the payments for coronaviruses, you end up in a situation where almost 10% of farmers – these are farmers of color – 10% of farmers only received 1% of the allocation. And you say what’s the problem? Well, when you talk about a total of $ 24 billion to $ 26 billion, and 10% only brings in 1% of the payout, I think as a department we should be fairer than that. So the American bailout said, OK, now we have a better understanding of this cumulative impact of past discrimination. We understood. And so paying off the debt is really a crucial first step in making these farmers whole, so that they can be more competitive and we can keep moving forward with better service to all of our customers.

Ryssdal: So it’s a bit off, Dr Goldmon, but come with me on this one, and I want to see what you say about it. You know, it’s difficult now for farmers, all farmers. But you know, my experience in reporting has been mostly white farmers, to be quite frank. It’s hard enough for farmers to bring in their kids and the next generation, right? Because it is a difficult life, you depend on a lot of things. That is, there is a lot going on in agriculture. I wonder what you think about the future of black agriculture in the United States.

Goldmon: Thanks very much. And if I can go back a bit to introduce myself, I would add that, I mean, I can take myself as an example. I am 10 out of 11 children. Mom and Dad raised our family on a 300 acre farm. And so we worked a lot, we grew fresh vegetables from the market, we grew cotton and soybeans. And I grew up in a community where there were some pretty big black farmers. But let’s take another deeper dive. And I remember when I was a kid that there were things that would confuse me a little. And some of those things had to do with why black farmers in our community were at a huge disadvantage compared to white farmers. To a large extent, there was a period there where black farmers really discouraged children from continuing to work on the farm. But let’s move quickly until today. That group you’re talking about – American farmers – is about 2% of the population, of the American population. Black farmers make up just under 2% of that. So we’re talking about a fairly small group of people in the grand scheme of things. But when you look at the impact these people have on diversity in agriculture and in global society, it is extremely important that we get the right results because we need to make sure that our country’s agricultural system is also diverse. that it should be. , so that other people may not have to endure their parents’ struggles. I mean, that’s the real importance of this race equity work that we do.

Ryssdal: Do you have children, Dr Goldmon?

Goldmon: I have two. Yes sir.

Ryssdal: What will they do ?

Goldmon: One is in the process of completing a doctorate. in history, for some reason, Mr. Ryssdal. She’s at Emory University. She obtains a degree in history.

Ryssdal: Not only is she majoring in history, but she is majoring in history, which I was, at my alma mater. So this is it.

Goldmon: Small world, I’ll have to remind him that. Let him know that. She will be delighted. But now she is finishing her doctorate. in the story, with an emphasis on blacks in agriculture. And our son is a landscaper. He lives and works in Virginia.