Remarks by Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (Penn.) As prepared for delivery:
Good morning, and thank you, Mr. Chairman, for organizing today’s hearing on such an important matter — a matter which I know is not only close and dear to your heart, but a matter of importance. that all of us participating today, including those who tune in to our live broadcast, can learn something from.
Today’s hearing to examine the plight of black farmers in the United States provides an opportunity to address some questions that have remained unanswered for too long.
Everyone who participates today is familiar with the 1999 class action Pigford v. Glickman, a case that alleged decades of discrimination by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) against black farmers seeking farm loans and other government aid. Since Pigford’s original settlement, more than $ 2 billion has been allocated in compensation to black farmers.
Without a doubt, there has been discrimination in the USDA in the past against black farmers and other socially disadvantaged groups. Unfortunately, I am sure that there are still cases of discrimination today.
The US bailout was enacted two weeks ago today. Of the nearly $ 2 trillion in spending, $ 5 billion was allocated to black farmers, of which $ 4 billion was earmarked for loan cancellation.
Let me be clear. I did not vote for this bill for many obvious reasons – chief among them was the fact that the bulk of the multibillion dollar bill had virtually nothing to do with COVID. It was also written behind closed doors without any input from the minority party. In addition, the bill was drafted on the basis of assumptions, misinformation and incomplete data. Unfortunately, this is what happens when you force the passage of partisan law through budget reconciliation.
Repaying loans to socially disadvantaged farmers may help in the short term, but it does little to address the root cause of the problem. It does nothing to tackle discrimination head-on and it certainly does not prevent the racial exclusion of black farmers or any other socially disadvantaged group in the future.
How has the USDA leadership failed so spectacularly to allow this discrimination to continue for so many years? Why were the bad actors allowed to continue their comfortable government or their appointed jobs when they so brazenly allowed the discrimination to continue, even though they had not directly involved in the discrimination itself? Is simple debt forgiveness the best way to solve this problem and provide a forward-thinking and fair outcome?
The US bailout gives the USDA general authority to manage the funds provided by the legislation. Certainly, leaving an unelected bureaucracy with a decades-long record of racial discrimination cannot be the best way to right the wrongs.
We cannot forget the progress Congress has already made in authorizing programs and initiatives through previous Farm Bills to help black farmers and other socially disadvantaged farmers. From credit to custody, there are a number of provisions aimed at addressing inequalities.
For example, the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) now targets direct loans and guarantees loans to socially disadvantaged farmers eligible to purchase and operate family-sized farms and ranches. In conservation and forestry, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has made concerted efforts to provide resources to socially disadvantaged and historically underserved producers. Each year, the NRCS targets five percent of its Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) for socially disadvantaged farmers. However, over the past decade, the NRCS has exceeded expectations with 33 percent of EQIP funding going to historically underserved producers and beginning farmers.
Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention the 2018 Farm Bill investments in historically black universities of 1890, including $ 80 million in scholarships for HBCU students to pursue agricultural studies.
While there is still a lot of work to do, we should take these earlier advances as a model in ongoing discussions. We must work together as a farming team – farmers, ranchers, producers, lawmakers, stakeholders and activists – to reduce the barriers that prevent black farmers and other socially disadvantaged farmers from fully participating in a strong agricultural economy. We need to support a strong agricultural economy that picks up everything.
I thank our chairman once again, and I especially thank our witnesses. Your testimony is essential in helping us better understand the discrimination black farmers have faced, and it will play a crucial role in ensuring that our agricultural policy does not discriminate, but empowers farms of all breeds, sizes and sizes. products. I am here to listen. We are all here to listen, and I look forward to participating in this long overdue conversation.