It will take time to dismantle the crippling cumulative affects of systemtic racist policies that have made it difficult for Black farmers across the country to thrive, but the new leadership at USDA is hard at work implementing new policies to bring Black and minority farmers relief.
Dr. Jewel Bronaugh, who previously served as State Executive Director for the Virginia FSA, made her first official appearance as USDA Deputy Secretary to help strengthen relationships with the community of current and potential FSA borrowers as well as collaborate with local partners to help break down barriers to Farm Bill program participation.
The former chair of Virginia State University's (VSU) Department of Agriculture, and Petersburg native, Dr. Bronaugh chose to return to her home on the lofty hill for her first major appearance in her new role - the first Black woman to serve in this capacity. VSU, an 1890 land grant institution, has been a key partner in ongoing efforts to increase awareness of resources available through USDA agencies.
"The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA ) Section 1005 includes provisions for USDA to pay up to 120% of loan balances, as of January 1, 2021, for Farm Service Agency (FSA) Direct and Guaranteed Farm Loans and Farm Storage Facility Loans (FSFL) to any Socially Disadvantaged producer who has a qualifying loan with FSA. This includes producers who are one or more of the following: Black/African American, American Indian, Alaskan Native, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, or Pacific Islander.
The 120% payment represents the full cost of the loan to include 100% toward loan balances as of January 1, 2021, and the 20% portion is available for tax liabilities and other fees associated with payment of the debt. Any payments by borrowers made since January 1 will be reimbursed in full."
"All my life I've never asked anyone to give me anything, but opportunity." -Mr. Leroy Hardy of Hardy Farm
Dr. Bronaugh held a roundtable with stakeholders, and a Q&A session where Black farmers across the Commonwealth shared their concerns, and narratives highlighting the inequities they have faced as producers. These inequities are not limited to: losing land, inequitable policies, emotional loss and how the discrimination they have faced impacts thier families, being overlooked for contracts, the need for equitable opportunities to share and sell products to consumers and much more.
The Virginia Black Lifestyle Magazine is compiling narratives of Virginia's Black farmers for an upcoming in-depth feature. If you are a Black farmer in Virginia, and would like to contribute to the narrative, please send us an email: hello@TheVABlackLifestyleMagazine.com.