By Tim Fink
American Farmland Trust applauds the passage of a new COVID relief bill by the House of Representatives today. This legislation comes at a time when many Americans, including farmers and ranchers, continue to struggle in the face of the ongoing pandemic. The funding provided to USDA through this legislation will not only serve as vital relief, it will help lay the groundwork for a more resilient food system.
AFT is especially pleased with the historic and unprecedented support provided for socially disadvantaged farmers within the legislation. USDA’s history of discrimination is well–documented and inclusion of loan forgiveness marks a key step in addressing a historic wrong. We especially appreciate that the legislation includes funding for the additional tools these farmers need for success, including legal services to work through heirs’ property issues, financial training, and other technical assistance. The legislation also recognizes opportunities to further diversify agriculture, providing pilot projects for land access as well as support for research and scholarships that will produce the next generation of agricultural innovators.
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As an organization, we have called for additional federal support
for state and local governments. With offices across the nation, we have seen firsthand how state and local budget shortfalls are threatening to eliminate or reduce critical agricultural programs such as Farmlinks, purchase of agricultural conservation easement (PACE) programs, and support for conservation practices that sequester carbon and improve water quality.