USDA seeks public input for racial justice and equity, Vilsack responds to minority debt lawsuits

The USDA is seeking public input to help advance racial equity across the department.

The agency says information gained from public listening sessions will help identify ‘barriers that people of color, underserved communities and others may face’ when accessing USDA programs and services.

USDA says the information will address systemic inequities and determine ways to engage stakeholders and community members.  USDA will provide the findings to the Racial Equity Commission, which will launch later this year.

The Notice will be available for public input until July 15, 2021 and is available online through the Federal Register.

In recent remarks at the BIO online convention, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack criticized farmers who are suing over minority debt relief payments to socially disadvantaged producers that address previous discrimination. 

He questioned where farmers were over the last century when “their Black counterparts were being discriminated against and didn’t hear a peep from white farmers how unfortunate that circumstance was.”

The American Rescue Plan Act provides funding for USDA’s Farm Service Agency to pay 120 percent of direct and guaranteed outstanding loan balances.  Several lawsuits have been filed opposing USDA’s move and a judge in Wisconsin ordered the agency to halt any payments to producers.

  • Sorry but Mr Vilsack is a politician with a solution looking for a problem. USDA programs have not been discriminatory and have been applied fairly without regard to race or gender. What crazy times these are. What is next? Lower tax rates for those who claim they have been disadvantaged? Vouchers to buy equipment at lower prices? Mandatory free seed from DeKalb and Pioneer? Capitalism isn’t perfect, but blatant discrimination in 2021 is not the answer.

    • What hole have you been living in Mr. Groth? Do some research. Check out history. You won’t have much difficulty finding discriminatory practices in execution of policies for farmers of color.

      • Here is my take. I am a white female farmer and I applied for a conservation contract exactly 1 year ago. For the first three months the FSA said they had never heard of that program. I downloaded an application after extensive research and then for the next 4 months the FSA said they didn’t know how to implement that program. They did this because the Debt for Nature Program would have reduced my debt to the USDA by 33%, approximately $100,000! The FSA agent actually walked away one time mumbling “everybody wants to be a rich farmer”.
        Everyone that works at the local FSA offices is a farmer or relative of a farmer, or has loans from the FSA. When you walk in there, you are competition for them. So minority and poor white people are discriminated against. P.S.- after I became delinquent on my land loan, the FSA threw out my conservation contract application and said that because I was delinquent, that I had to fill out a whole new application! Put that in your pipe mr Vilsack.

  • We are white Farmers we have never thought about any discrimination going on we always thought there was only one type of Application For All Most of the time we do not Qualify but we do not holler Discrimination! I do believe Payments/Loans/any Programs should be for All Farmers not for White, Black pink,purple, or Brown Farmers it should be for All as a WHOLE! You’re Involving white people by saying we never said anything! Well guess What White Farmers work as hard as anybody we have no way of knowing what y’all were doing to people of Color in the Government Office that’s private information So don’t put your problems on us we have nothing to do with Applications. I have brought paperwork in to the Gov Office they wouldn’t look it Just said you don’t Qualify we do not have to look at it, I AM WHITE! I hear WHITE Discrimination.

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