The $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package being pushed by President Biden puts more than $1 billion toward "socially disadvantaged" farmers and related groups — including an equity commission, agricultural training and other assistance to advance racial justice in farming.
"Socially disadvantaged" farmers are defined as those who are part of a group that has been discriminated against because of their race or ethnicity.
"By denying or delaying Black farmers the same loans, subsidies and other payments made to white farmers, USDA engaged in systematic racism that led to a dramatic decline in the number of Black farmers. This is not in dispute," John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, told Fox News in a statement.
"Sadly, this long legacy of discrimination is baked into USDA programs, including how payments to Black farmers like me continue to be calculated," Boyd continued.
The provision would fund the development of agricultural legal centers and the distribution of grants and loans to help minority farmers.
On Friday, the House Budget Committee released the text of Biden's American Rescue Plan bill, which will be considered by the committee on Monday.
Democrats are planning to use the process of budget reconciliation, which allows them to bypass courting Republican support. However, it also means they must obey the Byrd rule, which says anything passed during budget reconciliation must have to do with the federal budget in some way.
The American Rescue Plan would also fund direct relief payments "equal to 120 per cent of the outstanding indebtedness of each socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher as of January 1, 2021, to pay off the loan directly or to the socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher." The "farm loan assistance is to be provided, using however much otherwise unappropriated FY 2021 funds are 'necessary,'" according to the American Action Forum.
Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., opposed the direct payments when the House Agriculture Committee approved funding for debt relief for socially disadvantaged farmers earlier in February, Successful Farming reported.
"I think it's wrong. I don't understand the justification of this," Scott said, according to Successful Farming.
Black farmers accounted for approximately one-sixth of farmers in 1920, but less than 2% of farms were run by Black producers by 2017, according to USDA data.
The USDA has faced accusations of discrimination for years. The class-action Pigford lawsuit that the government settled in 1999 for $1.25 billion was supposed to help farmers who claimed they were unfairly denied loans and other government assistance.
"The debt relief proposed by Sen. [Raphael] Warnock and included in the House and Senate budget reconciliation bills will build on the progress made in the Pigford," Boyd told Fox News.
Fox News' inquiry to the White House was not returned.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.