Farmers of color are set to get some unprecedented debt relief starting this month from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The latest federal COVID aid package includes an estimated $4 billion for the USDA to wipe away these farmers' debts.
It's an unprecedented Congressional mandate to make up for the damage that decades of lending discrimination has had on farmers of color. The distrust runs so deep that the department has been dubbed "the last plantation."
"It's like the fox watching the hen house," says John Boyd, a Virginia row crop and cattle farmer who has long advocated for the USDA to do more to help Black farmers.
That's the type of skepticism that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack faced when he met with a group of Black farmers surrounded by pecan groves in rural Fort Valley, Ga. last month.
Vilsack called the new program "a very, very important first step," while acknowledging, "The Department of Agriculture has a lot of work to do."