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Black farmers say U.S. government owes them $5 billion

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(NewsNation) — A group of Black farmers reportedly filed a class-action lawsuit for $5 billion, claiming the federal government illegally broke a promise to pay off their debts, PBS reported. 

The suit comes after congressional aid for disadvantaged farmers authorized as part of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package — which was going to give Black farmers $5 billion — was challenged in the courts by white farmers

While some of these white farmers have claimed racial injustice, Black farmers have lost upwards of $326 billion in farmland over the decades, according to a 2022 study

“We’re quietly, one by one, losing our farms. Many Black farmers were even deterred from applying for assistance at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I personally had my loan torn up and tossed in the trash can, right in front of me. I’ve been spat on by the person who’s supposed to be lending me money and I’ve been called racial epithets. It was commonplace from the lending officer at USDA,” John Boyd Jr., president of the Black Farmers Association, told NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” on Thursday.  

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is one of the white farmers who spoke out against Black farmers receiving a $5 billion cut from Biden’s American Rescue Plan. According to Miller, it violated their rights and he called it reverse discrimination.  

“It was racist. It was based on skin color — not on need or being economically disadvantaged. Look, I’m for minority farmers getting help, but this gave help whether they needed it or not, and it excluded all the other races, which is just plain racist,” Miller said. 

“Look at the history of the USDA debt relief offered to white farmers. Look at what the Trump administration offered (in) subsidies and direct debt relief and administration of money to white farmers in the last four years … less than 1% went to Black farmers. Now, is that not racism? Why is it only when Black people are going to get benefits from the government do we call it racism?” civil rights attorney Ben Crump, told “Rush Hour” onThursday.  

Crump is fighting back on behalf of Boyd and three other plaintiffs, saying the government broke a binding contract to pay 16,000 farmers of color $4 billion in debt relief — money allocated to wipe out 100% of debt with the USDA and an additional 20% to pay off the taxes owed.

That money that was never paid, and “we hope to bind the federal government to their promise that was made contractually with the Black farmers. We hope to make up for 40 acres and a mule that were denied to Black farmers and Black soldiers and Black people over 150 years ago,” Crump said.

The lawsuit is pending in the U.S. Court of federal claims. Meanwhile, the USDA says litigation likely would have continued for years if they had not changed the laws, leading Congress to amend the bill to include all farmers in distress.

The proposal allocates more than $3 billion to USDA-backed loans and $2 billion to farmers who the agency allegedly discriminated against.

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