On November 19, 2020, Senators Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand announced a bill known as the Justice for Black Farmers Act of 2020.
The bill is meant to address the history of discrimination in federal agricultural policy. It aims to do this by providing land to Black Americans free of charge.
I read the proposed bill and summarized it here:
$8 billion dollars per year for the purchase of land. At least 20,000 land grants awarded each year 2021-2030. Grants are given for a maximum of 160 acres.
Farm Conservation Corps to provide training and free assistance to small qualifying farms.
Farmers eligible for 0% interest loan for first 7 years, with payments deferred for first 24 months. Also eligible for bond-rate loan for mortgage for construction or improvement of single family home.
HBCUs are granted $500 million each year to develop black farmers. They are also eligible for land grants to split as they see fit.
Reports Requested to Support the Bill
The committee will request public reports on:
- Land ownership of socially disadvantaged farmers compared to all farmers, delineated by race, ethnicity, and gender
- Assistance of socially disadvantaged farmers compared to all farmers, delineated by race, ethnicity, and gender
- Farm Credit System loans of socially disadvantaged farmers compared to all farmers, delineated by race, ethnicity, and gender
- Assessment of the reasons for these disparities
- Races, ethnicities, ages, localities, wages, benefits, and working conditions of farm workers
- Economic contribution of farm workers to US economy
- Satisfaction of farm workers with their employment
- Changes in reporting methodology and potential misreporting of Black farmers in the agricultural census
- Trends in corporate ownership of farmland
- Land consolidation trends
- Challenges and opportunities for new farmers accessing land
- Challenges and opportunities for socially disadvantaged groups accessing land
- Crop selection and production trends
An eligible black individual is defined as:
- Born in the US
- At least 21
- Has previously identified as Black or African American
- Has at least 1 parent of African ancestry
A qualified entity is defined as:
- 501(c)(3), 501(a)
- Not less than 3 years experience providing meaningful agricultural, business, legal assistance to Black farmers
- 50% of board Black
- 1890 institution (HBCU)
Secretary/commission is to purchase available agricultural land from willing sellers, and grant that land to eligible Black individuals at no cost. The bill asks for $8 billion dollars per year for the purchase of land.
At least 20,000 land grants awarded each year 2021-2030. Grant is not taxable.
Grants are given for a maximum of 160 acres.
Eligible black individuals and qualified entities can apply.
Priority in the application process is given to:
- Current farmers or ranchers
- Those with a family history of land dispossession
- Those with experience in agriculture, including from the Farm Conservation Corps (defined/proposed below)
Restrictions on land use:
- Perpetual agricultural use. Can build 1 primary residence and housing for farmworkers on land
- Cannot operate animal feeding operation except during seasonal weather conditions
- Must follow highly erodible land and wetland conservation requirements
Eligibility for assistance:
- Eligible black individuals and socially disadvantaged farmers (first 5 years) are eligible for a loan
- Interest rate 0% for first 7 years. Defer payments for first 24 months.
- Direct loan for mortgage for construction or improvement of single family home
Grants for qualified entities to:
- Support land identification and subdivision
- Support and submit applications
- Support start up farm operations
- Provide farmer training
- Legal assistance, succession planning, support
- $1 billion per year 2021 to 2030 available to qualified entities
Funding for HBCUs:
- $500 million each year 2021 to 2030 for
- New courses for agriculture
- Recruiting students to new courses
- Research on regenerative agriculture and market opportunities
Farmer Training and Farm Conservation Corps
- Provide basic skills to operate a farm profitably with a primary focus on regenerating soil, ecosystem, and local community
- Focused on low-capital-intensive techniques and technologies
- Include a robust study of local and regional food systems and the market opportunities those systems present
Farmer training and succession planning:
- Provided by a qualified entity at no cost to farmer
- Required without 2 years of agriculture experience
- Optional at no cost as well
- Must develop a succession plan
Farm Conservation Corps
- Purpose of Corps is to provide academic, vocational, social skills to those aged 18-29 from socially disadvantaged groups so they may pursue long-term, productive careers in farming
- Goal to enroll minimum 20,000 each year to Corps in 2021-2030
- Corps serves as on-farm apprentices at no cost to:
- Socially disadvantaged farmers with gross income <$250k
- Beginning farmers with gross income <$250k
- Certified organic farmers <$250k
- Corps members get housing, subsistence, clothing, medical attention, transportation (or cash allowance to cover)
- Paid federal minimum wage
- Requesting $1 billion per year 2021 to 2030 available to carry this out
Bank and Public Awareness
Establishing the National Socially Disadvantaged Farmer and Rancher Bank
- Co-operative, not-for-profit
- 30 year loan with treasury bond rate
- Max grant $3 million
- $1 billion funding request
$50 million for public awareness campaigns, 50/50 between USDA and community organizations