FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jordan Treakle, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-543-5675
March 12, 2021: The National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) applauds the passage of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, the American Rescue Plan, which will fund direct payments, extended unemployment benefits, housing assistance, school and childcare grants, Paycheck Protection and other programs to help the country rebound after a year’s struggle with COVID-19. The pandemic highlighted numerous weaknesses within the farm-fishery-food system, leaving many family-based producers, workers and businesses bankrupt when supply and demand chains were broken.
NFFC was especially pleased with the inclusion of the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act, introduced last month by Democratic Senators Reverend Raphael Warnock (GA), Cory Booker (NJ) and Ben Ray Luján (NM), and co-sponsored by Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (MI). NFFC supported this bill in providing $4 billion in debt relief for Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and Farmers of Color, which USDA will pay at 120 percent of the amount due on loans made directly to minority farmers or by private lenders through USDA guaranteed loan programs; taxes associated with debt relief will also be covered. Another $1 billion will be used to resolve heirs property issues, provide legal aid to socially disadvantaged farmers and assist minority farmers’ access to land.
Savonala Horne, executive director of the Land Loss Prevention Project and NFFC at-large board representative, stated, “We thank Senator Warnock for standing with Black farmers, anchoring the way forward with debt forgiveness, farmland recovery and financial assistance. Furthermore, buttressing the abilities of 1890 land grant universities and non-governmental organizations to target technical assistance for a speedy post-COVID rescue plan is crucial for rural America.”
The Rescue Plan also contains provisions to boost market access opportunities for the US food and farm system. Eleven billion dollars will be used to purchase agriculture commodities, strengthen supply chains, expand online access to SNAP and other food assistance and support small processing facilities. Although less than 1 percent of the total stimulus package, with quick and equitable distribution the funds could demonstrably boost the financial situations and general well-being of the people and communities most in need at this time.
NFFC board president Jim Goodman, a retired Wisconsin dairy farmer, said, “We are grateful for the members of Congress who never gave up their efforts to pass this bill that will help mitigate the physical and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The aid packages are desperately needed and provisions of the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act are long overdue. This is also an opportunity, recognizing that government’s responsibility to provide the general welfare of its people cannot be accomplished one crisis at a time. We look forward to working with our congressional allies to make meaningful, long-term policy changes to correct the weaknesses in our food system, end systemic racism and create more equitable access to healthcare, education, fair wages and fair farm prices.”