Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried joined U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Monica Rainge, U.S. Representative Al Lawson, Jr. (FL-5), and others to highlight historic American Rescue Plan provisions that provide $4 billion in debt relief to socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers, and growers. They were joined at the Florida A&M University (FAMU) Research and Extension Center in Quincy, Florida by FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., FAMU College of Agriculture and Food Sciences Dean Robert Taylor, Ph.D., Gadsden County Commission Chair Brenda Holt, Quincy Mayor Ronte R. Harris, and approximately fifty farmers and ranchers from across North Florida.
“In the past century, we have seen an 85 percent decrease in Black participation in agriculture, in an industry critical to food, science, and national security,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “The American Rescue Plan is about helping people, and about lifting up socially disadvantaged farmers, giving them an equal opportunity at success. Paying off loans of socially disadvantaged producers who are struggling helps everybody, hurts not a single person, and is the morally right thing to do. If this debt relief helps socially disadvantaged farmers grow their farms and serve their communities, then we must embrace it, share it, and spread this opportunity.”
“This is a historic moment – it is a new day at the USDA, and the USDA is harnessing new approaches and tools to ensure that civil rights and equity across USDA is established, and that we build trust back with socially disadvantaged producers,” said USDA Deputy Assistant Secretary Monica Rainge. “The debt relief program under the American Rescue Plan is a major civil rights victory for all socially-disadvantaged producers with a qualifying loan with USDA.”
Socially Disadvantaged: Under Section 2501 of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation and Trade Act of 1990 (FACT Act), also known as the 1990 Farm Bill, P.L. 101-624, a socially disadvantaged group is defined as a farmer or rancher who is a member of one or more of the following groups whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities, 7 U.S.C. § 2279(e). Groups include, but are not limited to: Black/African American, American Indian or Alaskan native, Hispanic or Latino, and Asian American or Pacific Islander; gender is not a criteria in and of itself, but women are included in these categories.
Debt Relief: Section 1005 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 includes provisions for USDA to pay up to 120 percent of loan balances, as of January 1, 2021, to any socially disadvantaged producer who has a qualifying loan with the Farm Service Agency (FSA). The 120 percent payment represents the full cost of the loan to include 100 percent toward loan balances as of January 1, 2021; the 20 percent portion is available for tax liabilities and other fees associated with payment of the debt. Any payments by borrowers made since January 1 will be reimbursed in full. Eligible Direct Loan borrowers will begin receiving debt relief letters from FSA in the mail on a rolling basis, beginning the week of May 24. Information for Guaranteed Loan borrowers will be available within 120 days. More information may be found at Farmers.gov/AmericanRescuePlan.