It shouldn’t come as a surprise that, as with most things in this country, the farming industry hasn’t exactly been welcoming to Black people throughout the entirety of this country’s modern history. In an effort to rectify the injustices Black farmers have had to endure, the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package passed in March included $4 billion in debt relief for Black and brown farmers. Apparently, the banks weren’t a fan of that idea as they sent a letter to the Department of Agriculture warning that early debt relief may prevent them from giving loans to Black farmers in the future.
According to CNN, the American Bankers Association, the Independent Community Bankers of America and the National Rural Lenders Association sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack that said paying off these loans early would cause the banks to suffer “lost income” due to the lose of interest payments they would’ve received over the duration of the loans.
“If USDA does not compensate lenders for such disruptions or avoid sudden loan payoffs, the likely result will be less access to credit for those seeking USDA guaranteed loans in the future, including [socially disadvantaged] farmers/ranchers,” the letter read.
Bro, y’all are banks. Y’all are the banks, which means you have all the money. If un-fucking Black and brown people over is detrimental to your business, maybe that means you need to change the way you do business.
John Wesley Boyd Jr., president of the National Black Farmers Association, called the letter “a threat to Black and other farmers of color.”
“It is a continuation of the discrimination Black Farmers have been experiencing for decades from banks,” Boyd told CNN. The entire reason these repayments are happening is because, historically, Black farmers have been denied federal loans and have faced decades of discrimination from the USDA. It’s a fact Vilsack even acknowledged while discussing the repayments during a White House briefing earlier this month.
“I think I have to take you back 20, 30 years, when we know for a fact that socially disadvantaged producers were discriminated against by the United States Department of Agriculture,” Vilsack told reporters. “We have reimbursed people in the past for those acts of discrimination, but we have never absolutely dealt with the cumulative effect.”
The USDA did respond to the lenders in its own letter, telling the banks to “suspend all adverse actions” on underrepresented farmers and ranchers until the department can fully establish how much each farmer will receive in payment.
“USDA’s obligation under the law is to pay off the qualifying loans of socially disadvantaged farmers. We don’t have authority to go beyond that,” added a USDA spokesperson.
Despite this being an attempt to rectify a historical injustice, white people were still in their feelings as a group of farmers filed a lawsuit claiming that the loan forgiveness program discriminated against them.
We really, truly, cannot have a damn thing can we?