Sens. Cory Booker, Raphael Warnock Introduce Bills To Help Minority Farmers

Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) introduced separate bills to help Black farmers by closing equity gaps and improving diversity within food and agricultural policy and politics.

Booker reintroduced the Justice for Black Farmers Act, which will address discrimination and injustices committed against Black farmers by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Booker introduced his bill last fall and was endorsed by more than 100 groups representing farmers of color but it died in committee.

Warnock, whose home state has more than 2,000 Black farmers, introduced the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act that would provide $5 billion to Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, and other farmers of color, $4 billion of which would be sent to farmers in direct relief payments to help them pay off outstanding USDA farm loan debts and related taxes. The money will also go to minority farmers suffering from the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Politico, Warnock is trying to get his bill included in President Joe Biden‘s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

Both men are new members of the Senate Agriculture Committee and are co-sponsoring each bill.

Warnock’s bill is already gathering support from new members of the committee including Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich). Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y), and Tina Smith (D-Minn).

In 1920, around 1 million Black farmers worked on 41 million acres of land. Today there are less than 50,000 Black farmers, who makes up just less than 2% of the nation’s farmers.

Warnock’s bill also includes placing a moratorium on foreclosures during civil rights investigations and creates a federally chartered bank to provide Black farmers with loans and financial assistance. The bill also provides debt forgiveness for those who filed claims under the 1999 Pigford v. Glickman class action discrimination suit that Black farmers filed against USDA.

“Overtly discriminatory and unjust federal policy has robbed Black families in the United States of the ability to build and pass on intergenerational wealth,” Booker said in a news release. “As a new member on the Agriculture Committee, I am proud to re-introduce this landmark legislation alongside my colleagues as we work to correct this historic injustice.”