Senate Dems reject effort to remove reparations for 'disadvantaged farmers' from stimulus bill

The bill provides $1 billion in direct payments to address "widespread discrimination against socially disadvantaged farmers" and $5 billion in debt relief for farmers of color

Updated: March 8, 2021 - 3:26pm

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Senate Democrats rejected an amendment to remove providing reparations as "direct payments" for "socially disadvantaged" farmers from President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill.

The legislation ultimately passed the Senate on Saturday 50-49 without votes from Republicans. Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, proposed the amendment to strike provisions from the bill that provide direct payments to "socially disadvantaged" farmers, arguing that the provisions were "unrelated to COVID-19."

Under the bill, U.S. Agriculture Department receives $1 billion for "farm loan assistance" directed to farmers who have been discriminated against due to their race or ethnicity. 

According to the latest text of the bill, the funding is "for the purposes of addressing the longstanding and widespread discrimination against socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in farm loan programs and across the Department of Agriculture, as documented for decades by Congress and Federal agencies, and alleviating discriminatory barriers preventing socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers from fully participating in the American farm economy."

Under the American Rescue Plan, direct payments for socially disadvantaged farmers are "an amount equal to 120 percent of the outstanding indebtedness of each socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher as of January 1, 2021, to pay off the loan directly or to the socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher." 

Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock introduced the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act to provide $4 billion in debt relief payments for farmers of color. It also includes $1 billion for USDA initiatives to "root out systemic racism, provide technical and legal assistance to agricultural communities of color and fund under-resourced programs that will shape the future for farmers and communities of color."

Warnock's legislation was included in the final $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill. 

Under former President Obama, Congress had provided $1.25 billion for African American farmers as a result of the Pigford v. Glickman settlement. 

The Democratic-led House is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the stimulus bill.

John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, told Fox News that the direct payments and funding in the bill would help Black farmers.

"Sadly, this long legacy of discrimination is baked into USDA programs, including how payments to Black farmers like me continue to be calculated," he said.

Democrats used budget reconciliation to move the bill forward, meaning it only needed 51 votes in the Senate to pass. Sen. Dan Sullivan, an Alaska Republican, ultimately missed the vote, so it passed 50-49. 

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. David Scott, a Georgia Democrat, said that his committee is working on having a hearing with Black farmers for the "first time in history" about how the federal government can "help them more and be able to answer and resolve these questions of discrimination."