In President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion US bailout, $ 5 billion is earmarked for black farmers affected by decades of aggravated discrimination during the pandemic.
Gale Livingstone quit his job with the federal government to farm it full time, buying a farm in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, but money was tight.
“I organized a fundraiser, a GoFundMe, last year, and a lot of my clients have helped us raise funds to build this barn,” she said.
With no electricity or running water on her property, she sleeps in a camper van on her land while she builds her infrastructure.
“I had no intention of going into debt farming,” she said. “I didn’t want to do this. Unfortunately, I am there now. I had no choice.
Starting a new farm costs money, as does maintaining an established farm. Many farmers need loans to operate, and for many black farmers, the Federal Department of Agriculture loans they need to survive have been filled with discriminatory lending practices.
“I lost my original trail of 46 acres of land, and it was because of an act of discrimination,” said John Boyd, founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association.
Boyd, a fourth-generation farmer, works to shed light on the decades of abuse of black farmers.
“When it takes an average of 387 days to process a black loan application and less than 30 days to process a white farmer’s loan application, it’s hard to compete,” Boyd said.
By the turn of the century, there were over a million black farmers with some 20 million acres of land, representing 14% of the country’s farmers. Now they represent 1.5%.
“It’s hard to buy another farm,” Boyd said. “It’s hard to replace the history that comes, the richness of history that accompanies this family farm where your brothers and sisters grew up, as well as your parents and grandparents. It’s very painful.
Boyd helped secure that $ 5 billion in COVID-19 relief funds for farmers of color.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” Boyd said.
The hope is that black farmers actually get the money they desperately need to survive.
“We have people at the federal level, they say, ‘We’re going to give you all this money,’ but they’re not the ones actually sitting behind a desk and then distributing this money,” Livingstone said. .
Discriminatory lending practices have cost black farmers some 12 million acres, mostly since the 1950s. The hope is that this federal government money will help enforce some of that right.
Boyd said he was working with U.S. Senators on a bill called Justice for Black Farmers, which calls on black farmers who have lost farms to unfair lending practices to reclaim that land.
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