PLANT CITY, Fla .– Four billion dollars set aside by the US Department of Agriculture for Farmers of Color is embroiled in a legal dispute, and Hillsborough County farmers are awaiting financial assistance.

The money was approved under the American rescue plan for farmers and breeders in difficulty, but a Florida federal court has ruled in June that the federal loan cancellation program is discriminatory.

What would you like to know

  • US Department of Agriculture set aside $ 4 billion for underprivileged farmers and farmers of color
  • The money was approved as part of the US bailout
  • Federal judge filed preliminary injunction terminating program for discrimination

Plant City farmer Claude Gay has worked as a farmer for over 40 years. He says he repeatedly applied for a USDA loan but was never approved.

Five generations of Gay’s family have grown crops on his land. He owns 32 acres and produces ocra, squash, peas, beans, tea, and all kinds of green vegetables.

And at 71, he still cultivates the land himself. It’s a one-man operation.

“Just me and Almighty God,” he said.

Gay says he never had employees because he couldn’t afford to hire help.

“The beginner farmer loan, the disadvantaged social loan, etc. I applied without success,” he added.

Gay is hoping to get help from the USDA debt relief program which was cut short by a federal judge in Florida, fearing it discriminates against white farmers.

US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the purpose of the bill was exactly the opposite – “to address decades of well-documented discrimination against farmers and ranchers socially disadvantaged by the USDA,” according to his department.

Vilsack called the program a major victory for civil rights.

“Right now black farmers need a little bit of funding,” said Elrod Curry, a Plant City farmer. “We need all the help we can get.

“We have been treated unfairly,” Gay added. “You don’t get the most out of your vegetables when you bring them to the market. You often need to plant depending on weather conditions because you don’t have proper irrigation. a risk.”

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