US agricultural agency opens claims for $2.2 billion in discrimination payments

By Lea Douglas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration will begin accepting applications for $2.2 billion in financial assistance for farmers who faced discrimination from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the government said on Friday. agency.

For decades, USDA’s relationships with farmers of color, women, and other underrepresented groups in agriculture have been fractured due to alleged discrimination in the agency’s agricultural loan programs. , a problem the Biden administration has pledged to address.

“Opening the application process is an important step in fulfilling our commitment to provide financial assistance to those who have experienced discrimination in USDA agricultural lending as quickly and efficiently as possible,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement.

The Biden administration had previously attempted to provide debt relief specifically to farmers of color, but white farmers blocked that effort in court.

The program that opens on Friday, called the Discrimination Financial Assistance Program, is funded by last year’s Inflation Reduction Act.

To apply for the funds, farmers, ranchers, and forest land owners must detail experiences of discrimination by USDA staff on the basis of race, religion, gender, or other identities that resulted in refusal of USDA loans, poor loan terms, or other results that result in loss of land, home, or other property.

The USDA partners with several organizations of black, Native American, youth, and other marginalized farmers to provide support in the application process.

“This process is the best we currently have, and we need to make it work for farmers who have suffered at the hands of the USDA,” said Savi Horne, director of the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers Land Loss Prevention Project, l one of the partner groups, in a press release.

The agency will accept applications until October 31. The USDA previously announced that it would distribute the payments by the end of this year.

(Reporting by Leah Douglas in WashingtonEditing by Matthew Lewis and Barbara Lewis)

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