FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
National Program Coordinator
firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 543-5675
Farm Debt Changes in Inflation Reduction Act Risks Undermining Racial Equity
AUGUST 11, 2022, WASHINGTON, DC – The National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) is disappointed by the Senate rescinding support for historically underserved farmers and other independent family-scale producers in the $700 billion Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Passed by the Senate on Sunday, the bill includes provisions to aid some struggling farmers and ranchers, but falls far short of revitalizing distressed rural communities across the nation.
The Senate’s IRA repeals Section 1005 of the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, a $5 billion program to provide essential debt relief and assistance to Black farmers and other farmers of color facing ongoing impacts of decades of discrimination by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The program has been hindered by lawsuits filed by white farmers claiming unsubstantiated marginalization, which Black farmer advocates were prepared to overcome in court. These legal issues were partially addressed in language negotiated by NFFC and allies included in the Build Back Better Act. Senate leadership failed to retain this language or adequately consult with community stakeholders before changing these provisions, thus undermining legal efforts by farmer advocates on Section 1005 of the American Rescue Plan Act.
NFFC Board President and Wisconsin dairy farmer Jim Goodman said, “The US farm system is rigged against independent family farmers, with Black farmers shouldering the added burden of systemic racism. We need policy solutions that recognize the hard work of family farmers and provide tools that help them succeed amid multiple crises. As we look towards a new US Farm Bill, we must work intently with community stakeholders to do better for our nation’s farmers, especially those most vulnerable.”
Executive Director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, Cornelius Blanding said, “Though disappointed that we may never know how the Court would have interpreted debt relief under Section 1005 and the constitutionality of targeted race-based programs designed to achieve racial equity we must work with our partners, USDA, and Congress to ensure the implementation of the programs under the IRA will not leave Black farmers out.”
Just over 1 percent of US farmers today identify as Black, compared to 14 percent of farmers 100 years ago — one study estimates that USDA discrimination contributed to $300 billion in lost Black wealth. NFFC and allies have commended Congressional leaders for recent efforts to address this history through new proposed programs designed to strengthen financial services and improve access to land and targeted technical assistance for these communities, but the IRA fails to build upon those recommendations.
While the Inflation Reduction Act misses the mark on farmer debt relief, it includes important increases for long underfunded conservation programs, including the Conservation Stewardship Program, and improvements to the Environmental Quality Improvements Program (EQIP). Implementation of the IRA farm provisions, including those providing support to farmer loan borrowers, must be accomplished through partnership and stakeholder accountability to prioritize the needs of all independent family farmers, including Black and other historically underserved farmers.
The debt relief provisions are Sections 22006 through 22008 of the Inflation Reduction Act, page 568.
Since 1986, National Family Farm Coalition has been mobilizing family farmers and ranchers to achieve fair prices, vibrant communities, and healthy foods free of corporate domination. Today, NFFC’s 31 member groups span 44 states and represent family farmers, ranchers, fisherfolk, and rural advocates across the United States.