On behalf of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Rural Coalition and many other organizations who support the groundbreaking Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act, we congratulate Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Senator Ben Ray Luján (D- NM), Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), House Agriculture Chairman David Scott (D-GA) and all others who won inclusion of this historic relief in the final COVID Emergency Budget Reconciliation Package. We urge all members of the US House to vote for final passage of the full package in the US House of Representatives. The bill provides $5 billion to farmers of color with $4 billion going towards direct relief payments to farmers of color struggling with farm loan debt and help with responding to the economic effects of the pandemic. Fighting to rebound economically, Black farmers like James Childs Jr., a member of the Federation, have experienced the worst for his small farm in Greene County, Alabama. He stated, “We lost some customers, and we now have to do more door to door to get rid of the produce we can’t sell. We lost about 20% of our farm income. We need that income to pay our land lease.” The bill will use the remaining $1 billion to support USDA programs to address systemic racism and provide technical and legal support for agricultural communities and farmers like Childs. The bill also promises debt forgiveness for Black farmers who filed claims under Pigford v. Glickman class action discrimination suit filed against USDA. “After decades of inequitable treatment by USDA, this bill is a critical step to mitigating years of discrimination, neglect and limited services by USDA that have been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Rural Coalition Chairperson John Zippert. “We strongly urge all members of the US House to quickly complete final passage of the full Emergency Budget Reconciliation Package which is critical for all rural communities. And we urge the US Department of Agriculture to work swiftly to speed the debt relief and targeted technical assistance that this nation’s Black, Indigenous and People of Color producers intensely need in the face of this pandemic.” Rudy Arredondo, President of the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association noted that “We are glad to see that this Congress, with a long history of providing generous debt and disaster relief to the agriculture sector has finally opened the door to the farmers who did not benefit from the kinds of federal assistance other producers received and require to survive. At long last, this nation will extend the relief this diverse sector of producers deserves to support their families, contribute to their communities and transfer farmland and the farming vocation to future generations.” “This emergency assistance for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) farmers is a long time in coming. Passage of this omnibus bill will finally provide relief on the scale needed to address the cumulative impact of continuing discrimination and reverse the persistent decline of BIPOC farmers and the disruption of their local food economies, said Savonala Horne, Esq., director of the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers Land Loss Prevention Project. “This well-timed relief also benefits rural communities burdened by the COVID-19 Pandemic. We stand ready to work with Secretary Vilsack and the USDA to swiftly and wisely implement these programs in a manner that speeds relief and constructs the support structure needed to ensure success.” “The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 signifies an important first step in addressing the invisibility and interminable racism experienced by black farmers and other underrepresented farmers. Although many black farmers and landowners are now prematurely deceased or no longer viable farmers, many black families across our nation still have hope that their children and grandchildren will become successful landowners, farmers, entrepreneurs, and more,” stated Gary R. Redding, chairperson of the Concerned Citizens of Tillery. “The Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, a member of the Rural Coalition and led by Gary R. Grant, hope that the Act’s debt relief funds, grants, education and training, and other forms of assistance will not be undermined and weakened like the New Deal Farm Project of the 1930s. Many of the children and grandchildren of black farmers are still paying for debts that were created by racism at USDA. We will continue to be united for the survival and viability of black farmers and other underrepresented farmers.”
Minutes before the foreclosure sale on Thursday, December 15, 2016, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, PLBA Housing Development Corporation and USDA Rural Development reached an agreement to sell the Wendy Hills Subdivision to the Federation. This averted the foreclosure sale, which was set for 11:00 AM at the Courthouse steps in Livingston, Alabama.
“We are pleased that we were able to secure funding to purchase Wendy Hills and avoid a foreclosure which would have caused an untold upheaval to the forty families living there. We want to continue to provide good housing for very low income people in Sumter County, which was the original intent and goal of Wendy Hills,” said Cornelius Blanding, Federation Executive Director.
Blanding continued, “ We know that we have to make some improvements to the property to bring it up to standards. We plan to secure financing for these improvements to the apartments as well as insure fire protection and safety for all of the residents.” “Our first step will be to insure the continued rental assistance, currently provided by HUD, to allow very low income persons to live in north Sumter County,” said Blanding.
Commissioner Drusilla Jackson, whose district includes the Wendy Hills Subdivision, said “ I was very concerned about this foreclosure and its impact on people in my district. I pledge to assist the Federation in any way I can to help insure that the housing is maintained for the residents who live there.”
The Wendy Hills Subdivision currently consists of 36 units, 10 one bedroom, 8 two bedroom, 8 three bedroom and 10 four bedroom apartments; an office and a playground area. Fire destroyed four of the original 40 units and they have not been rebuilt.
Mayor Carrie Fulghum of the Town of Gainesville and General Manager of the PLBA Housing Development Corporation said “ I am glad, as mayor of the closest town, that we were able to prevent the foreclosure of Wendy Hills and I am dedicated to insuring a safe and secure place for the residents of the Subdivision.”
For more information contact: Cornelius Blanding at 404/765-0991 or firstname.lastname@example.org