Black Farmers And Civil Rights Leaders Disappointed At Biden’s Pick To Head USDA

Former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, who served as the 30th U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary under the Obama administration has been picked by President Elect Biden to once again head the USDA.  Black farmers and top civil rights leaders have voiced concerns and disappointment over the selection, reports  Abraham Carpenter Jr., a Black farmer in Grady, Ark. said, “Why put him back in that position when he worked against us? And if he didn’t work against me, he certainly didn’t help me.”

Black voters in Georgia have not forgotten how Vilsack forced out Shirley Sherrod, a respected civil rights leader and former head of USDA Rural Development in Georgia.  Rudy Arredondo, President of the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association said “during Vilsack’s eight years at USDA, he never met with his organization, which represents about 75,000 Latino farmers”.  Gary Grant, President of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, said “they definitely don’t want him to return”.

John Boyd, President of the National Black Farmers Association was disappointed to learn about Vilsack’s nomination. Lawrence Lucas, President of the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees, and Lloyd Wright, former Director of Civil Rights at USDA, have written letters to Biden requesting that he reconsider Vilsack’s nomination. According to The Counter report, “Between 2013 and 2015, 7 percent of microloans went to Black farmers and less than 0.2 percent of USDA’s $5.7 billion loans in 2015 went to Black farmers, among other disparities that precluded Black farmers from access to land and capital.”

The Counter investigation found that government data was distorted to make it appear as if there was a boom. In reality it faced an abundance of discrimination cases involving Black, Hispanic, Indian and female farmers denied loans and credit.  Blacks experienced “outright acts of violence and intimidation resulting in a 90 percent loss of Black-owned farmland”.


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