In the recently passed 1.9 trillion dollar pandemic aid stimulus bill, the American Rescue Plan Act, Family Farm Action Alliance saw the advancement of multiple provisions aimed at tackling the faults in today’s food system. Key areas of intervention outlined in our research are addressed in this Act, including implementing anti-racist food and farm policy and supporting local and regional food systems. Provisions addressing these areas of intervention mirror policies outlined in our Toolkit for Congress to Tackle the Food Monopoly Crisis, moving policy in the right direction as we look ahead to a transformative 2023 Farm Bill.
Joe Maxwell of Family Farm Action Alliance said: “We are encouraged to see the furtherance of policies that address systemic discrimination in the agriculture sector and support the development of local and regional processing and distribution. The recommendations from our policy toolkit included in this COVID relief bill will move us toward a more inclusive economy where the producers of our food are provided with the resources they need to gain control of their livelihoods and build a better future for themselves and their rural communities.”
Webster Davis of Family Farm Action, the political partner of Family Farm Action Alliance, said: “This work has been years in the making. It is time that we support socially disadvantaged farmers who have been forced to make ends meet on an uneven playing field for far too long. We acknowledge Senators Booker and Warnock and the BIPOC-led organizations who worked tirelessly to get many of these provisions to a place where they could be included in this bill. The often behind-the-scenes work of many organizations was absolutely necessary to ensure that these policies truly represent the needs of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.”
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Below are sections from the American Rescue Plan Act that address agriculture issues and reflect key areas of intervention and policy recommendations from Family Farm Action Alliance’s Toolkit for Congress to Tackle the Food Monopoly Crisis.
Toolkit Intervention Area: Support Local and Regional Food Systems
Bill Section 1001 – Food Supply Chain and Agriculture Pandemic Response
This section appropriates 4 billion dollars to carry out various tasks, including:
- Grants and loans for small or mid sized food processors or distributors, local markets and other organizations to respond to COVID-19.
- Grants, loans and other assistance “to maintain and improve food and agricultural supply chain resiliency”
Toolkit Intervention Area: Anti-Racist Food and Farm Policy
Bill Section 1005 – Farm Loan Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers
(This bill uses the 1990 Farm Bill definition of Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers: “a producer who is a member of a group whose members have been subjected to racial, ethnic, or gender prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities”)
This section takes any funds in the Treasury not set aside in other appropriations bills (i.e. as much money as it takes) for:
- Paying socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers 120% of their outstanding debt in FSA direct and guaranteed farm loans. These payments will be doled out using a simplified process to be determined by the Treasury Secretary.
- This provision hits on key parts of the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act.
Bill Section 1006 – Assistance and Support for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers, Ranchers, Forest Land Owners and Operators, and Groups
This section appropriates 1.1 billion dollars to:
- “Provide outreach, mediation, financial training, capacity building training, cooperative development training and support, and other technical assistance to socially disadvantaged groups”
- “Provide grants and loans to improve land access for socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers, or forest landowners, including issues related to heirs’ property”
- “Support the development of agricultural credit institutions that are designed to serve socially disadvantaged groups, including other financing institutions funded by the Farm Credit System”
- “Provide assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers, or forest landowners that are farmer farm loan borrowers that suffered related adverse actions or past discrimination or bias”
- The four bullet points above are provisions from the Justice for Black Farmers Act. It is important to note that these provisions are open to all socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, not just Black farmers and ranchers.
- “To support the development of one or more legal centers focused on agricultural legal issues of socially disadvantaged groups”
- “To support and supplement research, education, and extension, as well as scholarships and programs that provide internships and pathways to Federal employment, at” historically underserved land grant universities including 1890, 1994, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, Hispanic serving, and insular area institutions (basically every institution except non-insular 1862 land grants)
- The two bullet points directly above are provisions from the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act
- “To support the activities of one or more equity commissions”
- “Establish pilot projects to provide technical and financial assistance to socially disadvantaged groups, including projects that focus on land acquisition, financial planning, technical assistance, and credit”
- The two bullet points directly above are provisions from both the Justice for Black Farmers Act and the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act
The food monopoly crisis can only be confronted if we are all standing together, and the inclusion of anti-racist food and farm policy puts us on the right track to tackle the food monopoly crisis equitably. The support of local and regional food systems is another important intervention area included, but more needs to be done to create transformative change in our food system. Family Farm Action Alliance is ready to move forward with this work and is confident that the above provisions of the bill will create the solid foundation needed for a truly transformative 2023 Farm Bill.