FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 5, 2021
Native American Agriculture Fund
Native American Agriculture Fund Condemns Court Challenges to Debt Relief for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers
Fayetteville, AR: The Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) is following developments in the courts challenging the debt relief Congress recently provided to members of socially disadvantaged groups engaged in agriculture. We were encouraged to see Congress act as it did to provide such debt relief and the additional important technical support services that Native producers need. We were equally disappointed when others saw fit to challenge this important effort to assist minority farmers and ranchers – even when many of those challenging the new law inherited rights and services reserved for white farmers only. For hundreds of years those challenging the new law have received countless opportunities to be made whole or receive additional federal support during challenging times. It’s only right that similar support should be directed to minority farmers now.
Congress passes laws that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is required to administer; but the structural discrimination embedded in these programs has defied years of efforts to change, within the courts, in the halls of Congress and within the department itself. These structural issues have impacted Native farmers and ranchers across the country making it harder for them to access capital and to access the agriculture safety net of programs. Those programs are not open to most Native producers in ways that can help them achieve success and grow their operations.
Around half of all the socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers who would receive this lifeline of debt relief and technical support are Native farmers and ranchers. The challenges Native agriculturalists face every day – deeply compounded by COVID and the impacts to the nation’s agriculture sector which were and are real and sustained – need attention now.
NAAF was created precisely because of these structural problems. We were born out of the historic Keepseagle v. Vilsack case to tackle these issues. NAAF’s work every day is focused on filling those gaps and creating opportunities for Native farmers and ranchers.
It is long past time for Native producers – and all other producers of color who are farming and ranching every day enduring conditions their white counterparts do not have to endure – to receive the attention needed to stabilize and grow their operations. The United States needs all farmers and ranchers – no matter who they are – to have the ability to succeed.
The Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) is a private, charitable trust serving Native farmers and ranchers through strategic grantmaking in the areas of business assistance, agricultural education, technical support, and advocacy services. The charitable trust was created by the settlement of the landmark Keepseagle v. Vilsack class-action lawsuit. NAAF is the largest philanthropic organization devoted solely to serving the Native American farming and ranching community. For more information visit https://nativeamericanagriculturefund.org/