WASHINGTON – The arrival of US Senator Raphael Warnock in Congress earlier this year coincided with an overdue recognition of the historical discrimination the US Department of Agriculture had inflicted on black farmers.
The plight of the farmers has become a major priority for Warnock, a Georgia Democrat Victory in a runoff election in January gave his party a narrow Senate majority for the first time in a decade.
Senate Democratic leaders who want him re-elected in 2022 also emphasize Warnock’s key role in implementing legislation and crafting policies to bring economic relief to black farmers in the US and Peach State.
In addition, the House Agriculture Committee – long a bastion of mostly white lawmakers – is now chaired by its first black chairman, Rep. David Scott, a Georgia Democrat, whose opening hearing reviewed decades of black farmers’ losses in the United States
A third Georgia Democrat, Rep. Sanford Bishop, chairs the House Subcommittee on Agricultural Resources.
“All of these factors have created a perfect storm for African American farmers and agricultural issues to be at the center of public order,” said Dr. Veronica Womack, executive director of the Institute for Rural Studies at Georgia College and State University and Black Belt region scholar. The region includes counties from Virginia to Texas with a large African American population.
Prevent more land loss
Warnock won a seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, where, as a freshman, he chairs a panel that oversees agricultural production and programs such as crop insurance, trade, food aid and loans.
As one of his first acts in Congress, he supported – along with other Senate Democrats – the Justice for Black Farmers Act, introduced last year by Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey.
If passed and incorporated into law, the bill would create guidelines to end discrimination within the USDA, prevent further land loss for black farmers, and restore lost land. It would also provide land grants to encourage the next generation of black farmers to enter the industry.
Black farmers have faced systematic discrimination in loans and subsidies over the years, resulting in large debts and land losses, members of Congress said at the Scott-convened House Agriculture hearing.
“Land ownership enables people to develop the region’s economy,” said Womack. “Land is a passport for this economy.”
In the US $ 1.9 trillion rescue plan, black lawmakers worked to allocate $ 5 billion to help black farmers. Much of the framework for this plan was taken from a bill that Warnock tabled shortly after he took office Emergency aid to Farmer of Color Act.
“I was proud that we were able to pass my Emergency Aid Act for Color Farmers, which will help improve the playing field for color farmers and farming families so that they can not only recover from the devastation of last year, but eventually beyond have the tools and support they need to thrive that have long been rejected due to systematic discrimination by the USDA, “Warnock said in a statement to the Georgia recorder.
Georgian agriculture, which produces everything from chicken to blueberries, contributes $ 73.3 billion to the economy annually, and about one in seven Georgians works in agricultural production. according to to the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s largest agricultural organization.
In Georgia there is about 2,870 black farmers today. In North Carolina there are around 2,000. The national estimate is available 50,000 black farmers according to USDA data.
In sharp contrast, there was roughly one in 1920 Millions of black farmersIn the US, they make up about 7% of the agricultural landscape. Black farmers are currently doing 1.4% of the nation’s farmers. White farmers make it up 98% of the farmersaccording to USDA.
Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta prior to his Senate election, also has a personal relationship with agriculture. During his victory speech after defeating former Republican Senator Kelly Loefflerhe thought about his mother’s trip.
In the 1950s, Verlene Warnock spent her teenage summers picking cotton and tobacco before becoming a pastor, he said.
“Because this is America, the 82-year-old Hands who used to pick someone else’s cotton went to the polls and chose their youngest son as a United States Senator,” said Warnock after becoming the proposed Georgia Senate runoff winner was.
As Warnock prepares for his re-election campaign for a full six-year term, he also tours agricultural areas in southwest Georgia, including counties of Peach, Sumter, Lee, Colquitt, Terrell, and Worth.
While warning there, Warnock warned his work to aid the American rescue plan. He also listened to concerns, met with guides and smallholders, and ended the tour with an appearance on Bishop, the appropriator of the house.
“Farmers here in Georgia have needs and priorities that are a little different from those in the Midwest or other parts of the country,” Warnock said in one during his tour of Colquitt County interview with farm monitor.
“I am here to learn all about the challenges they face so that we can make life better and not worse, easier and not harder when we bring public order forward,” he said.
Other Gillespie, a professor of political science at Emory University, said Warnock’s farming tour was important to a senator representing a state with a huge agricultural industry.
“If lawmakers fail to develop a reputation for responding to the needs of their constituents, it could prove detrimental to them in the next election,” she said. “So he does this to respond to something.”
She added that the farming tour showed his constituents that he is investing in the industry and ready to listen to farmers’ needs.
“He grew up in Savannah, he lives in Atlanta, so he can easily be painted by an adversary who isn’t in touch with the needs of half the state that don’t live in a metropolitan area,” said Gillespie. “By talking about agriculture issues, he is addressing this problem.”
Georgia and the Senate
During the past few months in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) has kept both Warnock and his colleague Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff in the spotlight, stressing that the passage of America’s massive bailout is due their victories were possible in Georgia.
Speaking at a press conference in February, Schumer said Warnock had pushed for funding for historically black colleges and universities and “debt relief for black farmers that has been ignored for far too long in Georgia and elsewhere.”
“These talented fighters actually kept their promise when they came out that they would actually bring real help, that elections have ramifications, that the Senate difference between Ossoff and Warnock is very real to the vast majority of the average citizen in Georgia and on that Country, ”said Schumer.
Schumer was the one who convinced Warnock to run for the Senate New York Times.
Warnock raised a staggering $ 5.6 million in its first quarter of campaign fundraising, according to recent reports Records of the Bundestag Election Commission.
The 2022 Blue Senate PAC, the PAC of the Senate Democratic Leadership, contributed more than $ 40,000 to Warnock’s campaign, and the Warnock Victory Fund PAC contributed more than $ 400,000 to its campaign FEC reports.
Although Warnock won his Senate runoff with 51% of the vote, Gillespie said Democrats should assume they are outsiders and find every possible Democratic voter and get them to vote in 2022.
“The way Warnock can do this is to find not only every eligible voter in central Atlanta who turns out to be a voter, but also every rural Democratic voter who is more of a colored person and make sure you that they also vote, ”she said.
During his time in Congress, Warnock was also a critic of a new electoral law in Georgia that, according to proponents of voting rights, disenfranchised both color voters and rural residents.
Democrats in Congress in response and other new electoral initiatives in states are trying to pass a massive suffrage and campaign finance and electoral reform package.
“Many of these states have already passed this terrible piece of legislation,” Warnock said, according to Capitol Hill Pool Feeds. “These voter suppression bills that emerge from state legislation make this issue absolutely urgent. We understand the urgency and you will see that we are moving fast with legislation. “
As 2022 approaches, Warnock has only two Republican challengers so far, Latham Saddler, a former Trump official, and Kelvin King, a prominent black construction manager.
Former Republican Senator David Perdue, who lost his re-election campaign to Ossoff, said he wasn’t planning attempting a comeback despite paperwork being filed to investigate a run against Warnock. Former MP Doug Collins (R-Ga.) Declined to run against Warnock.
Broadband, Land Grant Colleges
Other pending policy issues related to black farming and agriculture in general include improved broadband and dedicated funding for land-grant universities contained in the Biden government’s proposed $ 2 trillion infrastructure bill known as the American Jobs Act is.
On TwitterWarnock has expressed its support for broadband to “bridge the gap between rural and urban communities”.
Legislators should also consider exercising oversight over USDA programs such as county offices where most black farmers have experienced discrimination in the form of denied or late loanssaid Dr. Ralph Noble, the dean of the College of Agriculture, Family Science, and Technology at Fort Valley University.
He added that In addition to broadband, he hopes lawmakers like Warnock will consider lending funds to HBCUs and the 19 land grant universities to train farmers, and that land grant universities have made connections with farmers in their communities.
“To ensure that these programs and guidelines are effective,” Noble said, Congress “needs to liaise with the schools and universities that have programs that historically function in these communities.”