This letter to President Biden further explains the letter to the congressionals in Texas in the letter found below.
January 19, 2023
President Joe Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Dear Mr. President:
Your administration continues to betray Black farmers.
We have written to you about this betrayal and our concerns on several occasions including: September 28, 2022 and December 8, 2022. And, we have written to Secretary Vilsack on several occasions including: November 22, 2021 and July 23, 2021, and even to the House and Senate Ag Committees on May 29, 2022. Our concerns, then, have been articulated on multiple occasions. We have not been working in the dark, but rather in the light of day.
Secretary Tom Vilsack, your appointee at USDA has deep ties to the dairy industry in which he worked between terms with President Obama and then with you. That relationship has resulted in millions of dollars being doled out to “Big Dairy.” The same could be said for “Big Farming.”
At the same time, he has not delivered on congressional allocations found in the act that you signed, The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA), just as he did under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). The $3.1B for “distressed” farmers has not found its way into the hands of Black farmers. Our network which is nationwide has found only seven Black farmers who have experienced any sort of “payments” under this Bill. We know that 2,400+ Black farmers owe approximately $210M, and Secretary Vilsack has not paid off their debts as contained in the Bill. Why is that, Mr. President?
The IRA of 2022 also promised $2.2B for those farmers and ranchers who had experienced discrimination. One or more non-governmental entities were to be tasked with distributing those funds. Again, without a doubt most Black farmers would qualify, especially the Pigford Legacy Farmers. Again, Secretary Vilsack has not acted within an expeditious manner toward Black farmers. Will he indeed run out the clock, endangering that funding with the next administration?
We understand that $800M has been received by 13,000 distressed farmers, that they have been brought current on their financial obligations and that an additional payment was made and that they are to take up their own payments the following year. We ask the USDA, “where are the other Black farmers,” and “when will the other Black farmers receive their due?” And we are not given any answers.
We also understand that Secretary Vilsack will reduce funding for discrimination from $2.2B to $770M. If this is true, this is indeed an act of arrogance on his part.
We are troubled that he continues to fund white farmer programs, create MOUs with entities such as the National Urban League, which has little to nothing to do with farming, and yet he is not forthcoming about efforts with Black farmers.
When we ask the FSA Administrator the status of Black farmers in particular, we are given global assertions relative to all farmers, with no details forthcoming about Black farmers. We are left to wonder does he not know the status of Black farmers or is he refusing to tell us.
We were hopeful that The Consolidated Appropriates Act of 2023 (CAA) would include tax relief for Black farmers that was curiously omitted in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Since no amendments were allowed in the CAA, Black farmers (and other farmers) will now be saddled with taxes on the principal that has been forgiven, both for those “distressed” farmers as well as for those who will receive compensation for discrimination. This will result in putting the farmers back between a rock and a hard place. In some instances, they will be worse off than before.
Secretary Vilsack is playing games with funds allocated to farmers. He is not a friend to Black farmers. He is hurting the cause of Black farmers, and at the same time, he is costing you credibility. As he is your appointee, we ask, how does he get to play with the public’s money? How does he get to play with funds allocated by Congress? Where is the oversight over his doings in USDA? And we further ask, why are you not more forthcoming with regard to his deficiencies? One of our members has written in recent days about Vilsack’s failures following the signing of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. He indeed slow-walked that process just as he is slow-walking processes here.
We now live in precarious times with the radical right controlling the House of Representatives, with ongoing revelations about confidential documents found in your office and residence, and as you are working to get the first caucus out of Iowa and into South Carolina.
We are not impressed with your appearance at Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta last Sunday. In fact, Black farmers in the southern region are growing increasingly disenchanted with Senator Warnock. We believe that he has abandoned us now that he has won his election.
We want you to take a stand for Black farmers. We realize that it may cost you some white votes. In the long run, however, it will gain favor and votes from Black farmers and families.
We want Black farmers, as a pool of “distressed” farmers, to be relieved of their onerous indebtedness. We want Black farmers who have experienced the devastation of discrimination to be compensated. We want to see systemic change at USDA and that includes resolution of the numerous complaints within the Office of Civil Rights. We want transparency and accountability, and we want to see changes made with the county committee system. We want more than verbal assurances that discrimination will no longer be tolerated at USDA.
Dr. Eddie Glaude, professor at Princeton University, has a unique grasp on America as he articulates in an interview with MSNBC that we fail to confess our racism and white supremacy. The USDA has failed to own up to its responsibilities as to how racism brutalizes and destroys people as the USDA takes away land, identity, health, and families. This documentary addresses the impact of systemic racism upon Black farmers and their families.
We gave you the White House, Mr. President, and you gave us, over our protests, Thomas Vilsack. There is still time to undo these injustices.
We are eager to hear from you.
Lawrence Lucas, President Emeritus
USDA Coalition of Minority Employees
Representative, Justice for Black Farmers Group
Phone: (202) 744-4384
CC: Congressional Black Caucus
NAACP, Legal Defense Fund
Senator Elizabeth Warren
Senator Cory Booker
Senator Bernie Sanders
Senator Ben Ray Lujan
Senator Chuck Grassley
House Ag Committee
Senate Ag Committee
The number of black farmers in America peaked in 1920, when there were 949,889. Today, of the country’s 3.4 million total farmers, only 1.3%, or 45,508, are black, according to data from the US Department of Agriculture in 2019. By comparison, 95% of US farmers are white.