Okay, they don’t call it reparations because it is paid to Asians, Hispanics, African Americans, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and Hawaiian Natives, and you do not have to be a U.S. citizen to get it, but you judge for yourself.
These groups - along with women, regardless of race or ethnicity - are in the current definition of socially disadvantaged farmers, and the COVID relief bill proposes to pay up to 120% of the outstanding loan balances for any USDA farm related loan to all of these individuals with one exception, which I will get to later.
According to a letter signed by Coca-Cola and others, this payoff is necessary to remedy the “long legacy of public discrimination” and “pervasive racial discrimination” of the United States Government.
Let’s look at what they are supporting and start with the loans. Just how big are these loans? Well, according to the Government Accountability Office, the average balance on a land loan in the program is over $500,000, and since it is not limited to those loans, it could be as high as $1,750,000. Multiply that by 1.2 and the payoff is up to $2.1 million. The extra 20% on top of the loan payoff amount is to help with taxes.
There is no proof of discrimination required to receive the loan payoff, and again, no requirement to be a U.S. citizen either. By virtue of being a part of a race or ethnicity you are deemed to have been discriminated against by the USDA.
But wait, not every group is eligible. The Democrats use a 1990 definition of a socially disadvantaged farmer in the legislation rather than the current definition of a socially disadvantaged farmer. The use of this language is intentional, and it excludes one and only one demographic group - women.
I know it’s uncomfortable, but it is factual: White women are the only people that are eligible for the Farm Service Agency's Socially Disadvantaged Farmer and Rancher Loan Program that have been excluded from receiving this loan payoff assistance in the COVID relief bill. How is that not discrimination?
While I am opposed to this payoff in the COVID relief bill, I did attempt to offer an amendment during House consideration to treat all women equally under this payment provision. Sorry ladies, House Democrats rejected it. I also tried to prohibit Members of Congress from being eligible for the payment, and of course House Democrats rejected that as well.
Congressman Austin Scott represents Georgia’s Eighth Congressional District and is a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee.
This op-ed was pubished as an open opinion piece on Sunday, March 7, 2021.