‘Most of the time, it doesn’t work out’: Black farmers wait for debt relief as white counterparts sue
Reginald Stewart Sr., 57, began farming as a teenager in Pembroke Township, believed to be an Illinois stop on the Underground Railroad. But, throughout his life, he said, he’s faced hurdles to receiving the federal aid that many of his white counterparts have enjoyed. “As a Black farmer myself, I've come to find out that it’s easier to give up, it's easier to let somebody else do it, it’s easier not to stay focused,” he said, “because we find that there is no representation for us.”
For decades, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s discriminatory practices and policies have disproportionately disadvantaged Black farmers, according to government reports. Hoping to address the situation, the USDA announced earlier this year debt relief payments to these farmers that were supposed to start in June. But white farmers have sued to stop the money’s distribution.