Subsidies for Black Farmers Fuel Claims of “Reverse Racism” and “All Farmers Matter”

(p. 1) LaGRANGE, Mo. — Shade Lewis had just come in from feeding his cows one sunny spring afternoon when he opened a letter that could change his life: The government was offering to pay off his $200,000 farm loan, part of a new debt relief program created by Democrats to help farmers who have endured generations of racial discrimination.

It was a windfall for a 29-year-old who has spent the past decade scratching out a living as the only Black farmer in his corner of northeastern Missouri, where signposts quoting Genesis line the soybean fields and traffic signals warn drivers to go slow because it is planting season.

But the $4 billion fund has angered conservative white farmers who say they are being unfairly excluded because of their race. And it has plunged Mr. Lewis and other farmers of color into a new culture war over race, money and power in American farming.

. . .

(p. 19) The plans have drawn thousands of enraged comments on farm forums and are being fought by banks worried about losing interest income. And some rural residents have rallied around a new slogan, cribbed from the conservative response to the Black Lives Matter movement: All Farmers Matter.

. . .

“It’s a bunch of crap,” said Jeffrey Lay, who grows corn and soybeans on 2,000 acres and is president of the county farm bureau. “They talk about they want to get rid of discrimination. But they’re not even thinking about the fact that they’re discriminating against us.”

. . .

. . . rural residents upset with the repayments call them reverse racism.

White conservative farmers and ranchers from Florida, Texas and the Midwest quickly sued to block the program, arguing that the promised money amounts to illegal discrimination. America First Legal, a group run by the former Trump aide Stephen Miller, is backing the Texas lawsuit, whose plaintiff is the state’s agriculture commissioner.

“It’s anti-white,” said Jon Stevens, one of five Midwestern farmers who filed a lawsuit through the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative legal group. “Since when does Agriculture get into this kind of race politics?”

. . .

One recent afternoon, a friend, Brad Klauser, who runs his family’s large cattle and grain farm, swung by Mr. Lewis’s barn to catch up. As they talked bills, rising fuel costs and sky-high land prices, the conversation turned to the debt relief that only one of them was eligible to receive.

“Everybody should have the same option,” said Mr. Klauser, who is white, leaning on the flatbed of Mr. Lewis’s pickup. “Do you think you’re disadvantaged?”

“There’s definitely disadvantages,” Mr. Lewis replied, saying that officials scoffed when he first tried to get a federal farm loan. “They didn’t take me serious.”

After Mr. Klauser headed home, Mr. Lewis thought about how the two friends were both trying to reap a profit from the land. “Everyone should have a chance at farming,” he said.

For the full story, see:

Jack Healy. “Windfall for Black Farmers Roils Rural America.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, May 23, 2021): 1 & 19.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated May 24, 2021, and has the title “‘You Can Feel the Tension’: A Windfall for Minority Farmers Divides Rural America.” The online “pressreader” version showed the continuation page as p. 21. The continuation page of my “National” print version was p. 19.)

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