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Black farmers receive between one-third to one-sixth of the benefits under major federal crop subsidy programs that other farmers receive, and the “subsidy gap” has widened over the past decade. The gap will become more inequitable if a bill reported by the House Agriculture Committee passes the House later this week, researchers said.
The farm subsidy gap is emerged from an analysis of computerized USDA subsidy payment records for individual farm subsidy recipients and farm businesses that previously have not been available to outside researchers. The study was prepared by the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) and the Environmental Working Group. The two organizations collaborated on a 2003 analysis, Obstruction of Justice, that reignited the debate over the injustices tens of thousands of black farmers have experienced in the settlement of the Pigford vs. USDA case involving discrimination in government farm lending.
Concern about discrimination against black farmers at USDA has focused primarily on the department’s programs to provide farm acquisition (i.e. “ownership”) and operating loans to farmers whose financial circumstances make it difficult form them to get credit elsewhere. The loans are processed at local USDA offices by the department’s “lender of last resort,” the Farm Services Agency (formerly the Farmers Home Administration).