USDA extends deadline for $2.2 billion payout for black and “underserved” farmers affected by discriminatory lending practices by discriminatory lending practices
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is extending the deadline for Black farmers and others to apply for relief through the $2.2 billion Discrimination Financial Assistance Program (DFAP).
The new federal program is partly aimed at quelling years of lawsuits from Black farmers and their families who argue that the USDA’s farm lending program was weaponized against them and failed to support their farming operations properly. The original deadline for the program was Oct. 31, 2023. The new deadline is now Jan. 13, 2024.
The payments are being provided through the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act that allows farmers of all backgrounds, owners who are eligible for this program. That makes transparency in the administration of the Discrimination Financial Assistance Program crucial,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The USDA said in an effort to mend the broken bridge of trust between the USDA and underserved communities in agriculture, it plans to financially support communities whose businesses and livelihoods have suffered as a result of decades of unjust government policies and practices, primarily through the agency’s Farm Service Agency’s lending arm.
“USDA knows it must earn the trust of the farmers, ranchers and forest land-producers whose harvest season falls during the original application period.
The USDA said the new deadline extension is in response to feedback from potential applicants, non governmental program administrators and community-based organizations working closely with USDA to inform and assist eligible applicants. The extra time will allow more time for the USDA to reach and help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners through direct, no-cost technical assistance and training sessions. The extension will also ensure everyone has adequate time to apply, including In addition to the deadline change, the application process was designed so that FSA records are not required, though relevant records may be attached to an application as additional evidence if they are available.
Since the financial assistance application process opened on July 7, the USDA said it has embarked on a nationwide outreach campaign and quickly opened 30 local offices across 26 states, including one in downtown Little Rock.
The amount of money awarded to individuals through this program will depend on the number of eligible applicants and the consequences of the discrimination. Eligible individuals have the option to apply online or by submit- ting paper-based forms via mail or in- person delivery to local program offices.
The new program was included in the 2022 law after the American Rescue Plan of 2021 had set aside $5 billion for Black farmers of color who were “subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group.” However, white farmers have filed law- suits in several states against the USDA, claiming that the $2.2 trillion COVID-19 pandemic act discriminated against them.
Also, Black farmers across the U.S. represented by civil rights attorney Benjamin Crumps have filed their own class action lawsuit against the USDA, saying they are owed much more than has been allocated through the Inflation Reduction Act. They also claim that the excessively long, confusing, and repetitive questions on the DFAP application are another barrier toward justice.
The new federal program and earlier $5 billion reparations bill stem from two past lawsuits, known as Pigford I and II. In 1999, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia approved a settle- ment agreement and consent decree in Pigford v. Glickman, a class action discrimination suit between the USDA and Black farmers. That suit, and Pigford II in 2010, claim FSA had discriminated against Black farmers on the basis of race and failed to investigate or prop- erly respond to complaints from 1983 to 1997. Today, a number of Black farmers in Arkansas say they are still waiting to resolve claims filed with the USDA for payouts from the Pigford I and II.
To learn more about the program, visit www.22007apply.gov, email email@example.com or contact the national call center at 1-800-721-0970 from 8 a.m. ET to 8 p.m. PT, every day except federal holidays. regardless of race, to receive assistance up to $500,000 “as determined to be appropriate based on any consequences experienced from the discrimination.”