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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Prairie View A&M, USDA present possible debt relief for farmers of color


On June 16, members of the Prairie View A&M faculty gathered for a presentation in coordination with the USDA to discuss ways to effectively distribute aid to farmers of color. 

On June 19, The Eagle reported that around 80 people gathered at Fletcher Williams Farm in Prairie View to hear a three-hour presentation by Prairie View A&M faculty and the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA, representatives over the possible benefits of the $4 billion Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act. The act was originally passed as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Act in March 2021. 
Just days before this gathering, on June 10, U.S. District Judge William Griesbach ordered a temporary restraining order blocking the USDA from paying any loan debt to disadvantaged farmers through the act. This temporary ban on debt relief was in response to a lawsuit brought forth on behalf of 12 white farmers who believe the law to be racially discriminatory. 
Adjunct professor at Texas A&M University School of Law and private attorney Jim Bradbury said the act not only acknowledges the discrimination African Americans and other socialy disadvantaged groups have faced in agriculture, but also to provide relief to those farmers through the USDA.
“In the body of the act itself, it sort of gives just a little bit of a history lesson [about] the elements of discrimination and the difficulties that primarily African Americans, but also socially disadvantaged groups, have had in agriculture over the decades, Bradbury said.he purpose of the act [is to recognize] this has been a historical problem and to redress some of that, by providing debt relief for certain defined categories of farmers under USDA rules.” Bradbury said.
In regard to the District Judge’s injunction, Bradbury said it surprised him.
“It’s quite unusual to see a federal judge put a stop to a program that has been passed by Congress,” Bradbury said.
Bradbury, having himself looked at the lawsuit claiming racial discrimination, said in his opinion the law was sound.
“I do think given that there is a clear racial element in it in choice by these groups, Caucasians not being one of them, I think it is certainly going to get a look by federal judges, a constitutional look,” Bradbury said. 
As for the Prairie View forum discussing the act, Clarence Bunch, Ph.D., the agriculture and natural resources program leader of Prairie View A&M University, said the event was held to help reach out to minority farmers on how to benefit from the Relief for Farmers of Color Act and get them in contact with the USDA.
“The goal was to really bring about information to minority landowners, African Americans in particular, as to the American Rescue Plan that President Biden has releasedBunch said. …s to how funding was to be released to the producers as well as bring them face to face with the individuals who are administering the program.”
However, Bunch said it’s unknown how long it might take for farmers to receive funding the Act offers them. 
“The government said they won’t make any payment, but they are still going to go through the process with the producers to get them prepared to be able to receive payments, but they’re not going to release it until they have [gone] through the process with the lawsuit that’s been filed,” Bunch said. “So that could be weeks or it could be months.”
Bradbury had a similar opinion. 
“The question is really the injunction, because this is something that I would expect is going to go through the trial court where it is now, to a court of appeals, and then maybe on to the Supreme Court. I mean there are interested groups on both sides here that are very charged,” Bradbury said. 
In the end, Bunch believes once funding is released, it will benefit many farmers in the area.
“I think that the American Rescue Plan is a good answer for helping African American farmers, as well as other farmers across and within the state of Texas,” Bunch said.I think the plan is wonderful, I commend the administration; I commend the USDA for its courage and initiative and everything it’s doing for the producers. I think it’s absolutely fantastic.”

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