Growing access: American Relief Plan provides aid to struggling farmers of color - Albuquerque Journal

Growing access: American Relief Plan provides aid to struggling farmers of color

Eugene Pickett of Black Farmers and Ranchers New Mexico has a small farm near Belen. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Eugene Pickett remembers driving up to his small, 2-acre farm outside Belen in 2017 and seeing 5-foot-high waters flooding the area. It seemed like water was everywhere, including the inside of his home and cars.

“I opened the door to my truck and water just gushed out,” Pickett said. “I was like, ‘Ah, this ain’t good.'”

Pickett, who represents Black Farmers and Ranchers New Mexico and is one of just 60 Black farmers in the state, said he recalled feeling discouraged from applying for relief aid. It’s a feeling he said many farmers of color share when trying to access relief and federal programs.

Tony Casados adjusts a pivot sprinkler on his ranch in Ensenada north of Tierra Amarilla. Casados irrigates 120 acres of grass to feed his cattle, and hasn’t been getting any help from the drought.

Farmers of color in the U.S. have long voiced concerns about discrimination in federal programs and relief funds by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In New Mexico, farmers of color have much smaller plots of land compared to white farmers, making it harder to eke out a living in an industry running on small margins.

Now, the federal government is attempting to right that history.

Included in President Joe Biden’s American Relief Plan was around $5 billion for farmers of color, which includes debt relief if the farmers had taken out loans from the federal government.

Eugene Pickett, owner and operator of Black Farmers and Ranchers New Mexico.

The addition to the ARP was based on the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act, which advocated for debt relief for farmers who qualify. U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico joined Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia in sponsoring the bill.

Luján told the Journal in a phone interview that discrimination against farmers of color has long been an issue in the United States, including in New Mexico, where more than half of all agricultural producers are people of color, according to the most recent farm census.

Tony Casados is a rancher in Ensenada, north of Tierra Amarilla.

“There needs to be assurance that every farmer and rancher across America has the same access to these programs,” he said.

He said a recent case of discrimination occurred when the Farm Service Agency told farmers and ranchers relying on acequias to irrigate their fields didn’t qualify for federal drought relief funds. Acequias have been used for irrigation for hundreds of years, especially in northern New Mexico.

“That would disqualify predominantly Hispanic and Native American farmers in New Mexico from … that program,” Luján said.

A sprinkler at Tony Casados’ Ensenada ranch.

One of those farmers was Tony Casados, who raises cattle in Tierra Amarilla, a small village in northern Rio Arriba County. Like many farmers and ranchers across New Mexico, Casados’ operation was hit hard by record-breaking drought that’s been persistent for more than a year.

Casados said he didn’t understand why acequias were disqualified from drought relief.

“I would tend to believe that we here in the north have been discriminated against,” he said.

The FSA has since reversed the decision, although Casados said he still hasn’t received any drought relief funds thus far.

Sen. Ben Ray Luján

While New Mexico has one of the highest percentages of minority farmers of any state, it’s unclear just how many in the state will qualify for debt relief.

Pickett said many farmers of color, who didn’t trust the government based on decades of discrimination, never took out those loans in the first place and therefore don’t qualify for assistance. He estimated only around 800 New Mexicans will qualify.

Rudy Arredondo, president of the National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association, said the legislation, while helpful, needs to be the first of many steps to help smaller producers compete with larger farms with more resources.

He said his group would like to see a moratorium on farm payments for smaller producers, both white and of color, to help them survive, especially in regions plagued by drought.

“They should be given a reprieve in order for them to be able to figure out how they’re going to maintain their farming operations,” Arredondo said.

Home » Business » Outlook » Growing access: American Relief Plan provides aid to struggling farmers of color

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories




Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages

 

Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
1
Europe scrapes out economic growth by dodging gas disaster
Most Recent Biz News
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Europe's economy ... FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Europe's economy scraped out meager gains at the end of last year as galloping inflation fed by high energy prices ...
2
Medicaid provider procurement process canceled
From the newspaper
HSD says decision made after departures ... HSD says decision made after departures of Secretary Scrase and Medicaid Director Nicole Comeaux
3
Asian shares fall in muted trading ahead of Fed ...
Most Recent Biz News
TOKYO (AP) -- Asian shares mostly ... TOKYO (AP) -- Asian shares mostly fell in muted trading Tuesday as investors awaited decisions on interest rates and earnings reports from around the ...
4
Rebel Donut suffers 'extensive damage' from weekend fire
Business
... ...
5
UNM College of Nursing programs receive high ranking from ...
ABQnews Seeker
The University of New Mexico's College ... The University of New Mexico's College of Nursing online master of science in nursing programs ...
6
Bill would allow New Mexico cities, counties, tribes to ...
ABQnews Seeker
The proposed legislation would allow local ... The proposed legislation would allow local governments to take over electric generation from privately run utilities.
7
In Israel, disposable plastics trigger culture war, test PM
More News
JERUSALEM (AP) -- On Idit Silman's ... JERUSALEM (AP) -- On Idit Silman's first day as Israel's new environmental protection minister, she handed out soft drinks in disposable plastic cups to ...
8
Will Europe's ban on Russian diesel hike global fuel ...
Energy
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Europe is ... FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Europe is taking another big step toward cutting its energy ties with Russia, banning imports of diesel fuel and other ...
9
Dutch electronics giant Philips to cut 6,000 jobs worldwide
Technology
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- Dutch ... THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- Dutch consumer electronics and medical equipment maker Philips said Monday it is cutting 6,000 jobs worldwide over the next ...