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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher March 30, 2021

COVID-19 relief for minority farmers not a ‘bonus,’ it’s for past discrimination

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  • The COVID-19 relief plan signed into law in March 2021 includes an estimated $5 billion, mostly to pay off debt, for socially disadvantaged farmers — those in groups such as Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice.

A widely shared Facebook post claims Democrats unfairly favored minority farmers over white farmers.

It reads:

"Minority farmers get big bonus. White ones get none. Demonrats are the party of racism & division."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The COVID-19 relief law passed by Democratic majorities in Congress and signed by President Joe Biden in March gives an estimated $5 billion to farmers in "socially disadvantaged groups" — that is, racial and ethnic minority groups whose members have been subjected to prejudice.

It’s not strictly speaking a "bonus," as the post states.

COVID relief includes minority farmer aid

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was approved 219-212 in the House and 50-49 in the Senate. Democrats hold the majority in both chambers. Two Democrats voted no in the House; none voted no in the Senate. 

The American Farm Bureau Federation says the law appropriates an estimated $10.4 billion for programs designed to strengthen the agricultural and food supply chain through, for example, COVID-19 mitigation efforts for agricultural workers and more resources to buy and distribute agricultural commodities to nonprofits. Also in that total is an estimated $5 billion for "socially disadvantaged" farmers and ranchers.

Federal law defines a "socially disadvantaged group" regarding farmers and ranchers as a group whose members "have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities."

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The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates that of the $5 billion, $4 billion will be used to provide direct payments of up to 120% of a socially disadvantaged farmer’s or rancher’s outstanding debt — including Black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian Americans — as of Jan. 1, 2021. The additional 20% on top of paying off the debt is intended to pay off the taxes associated with the amount of the direct payment.

The other $1 billion will provide outreach, training, education, technical assistance, grants and loans, and funding to educational institutions to help improve land access for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, according to the farm bureau.

Proposed Black farmers aid

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and five other Democratic senators introduced in February the Justice For Black Farmers Act, a bill that would provide Black farmers debt relief and access to a land grant program. Booker first introduced the bill on Nov. 30, 2020, but no action was taken. 

Under the bill, the Agriculture Department would buy agricultural land from willing sellers at fair market value and convey grants of that land of up to 160 acres to eligible Black individuals at no cost. At least 20,000 land grants would be made each year from 2021 through 2030.

We rated as True Booker’s claim that "there is a direct connection between discriminatory policies within the" Agriculture Department "and the enormous land loss we have seen among Black farmers over the past century." 

In 1920, there were about 925,700 Black farmers. In 2017, that number was down to 45,500, a decline dramatically larger than that among white farmers. Bias in the implementation of New Deal policies and other farm assistance programs has been widely documented in Agriculture Department reports and legal settlements between the department and Black farmers. Discriminatory practices meant that Black farmers were continually denied opportunities to expand and modernize their farms, experts say.

Our ruling

A Facebook post claims: "Minority farmers get big bonus, white ones get none," because of Democrats.

The COVID-19 relief law signed by Biden and approved by Democratic majorities in Congress provides an estimated $5 billion for farmers from socially disadvantaged groups, such as racial minorities, that have been subjected to prejudice. It’s not simply a bonus. 

The post is partially accurate but leaves out important details. We rate it Half True.

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More by Tom Kertscher

COVID-19 relief for minority farmers not a ‘bonus,’ it’s for past discrimination

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