Dec 10, 2021 - News

Warnock may have a way forward for debt relief for farmers of color

Sen. Warnock at a podium in front of fellow Senators
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Democratic Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock is trying to find a way around a stalled push for debt relief to farmers of color that aims to make up for lending discrimination by the USDA.

What's happening: Warnock, who is running for re-election in 2022, may have found a way around that lawsuit through a provision in President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan that would provide $12 billion in debt relief to all economically distressed farmers.

Yes, but: That $1.75 trillion spending package hasn't had smooth congressional sailing, and it's unclear when it will pass.

Catch up quick: A group of white farmers sued over a provision in the American Rescue Plan that Warnock championed, which promised "socially disadvantaged farmers" debt relief.

  • They base their case on discrimination grounds, and a federal judge temporarily blocked the law's implementation this summer.

Why it matters: Warnock says the new provision he "ensured" would be included, would provide some relief to 97% of Black farmers in Georgia.

"I'm deeply disappointed folks tried to block what we're doing before we get started. I think that's short sighted. But nothing's going to stop me from working for farmers. So this provision in Build Back Better will help the farmers we set out to help...But almost all of your ordinary kind of working farmers will get some relief. So this is good for everybody."
ā€” Sen. Raphael Warnock

The big picture: Warnock says this relief for farmers is just one part of his larger policy platform focused on inequity. He points to efforts toward that goal related to closing the health care coverage gap in Georgia and expanding access to rural broadband.

"The pandemic has both illuminated and exacerbated some of these disparities that I'm trying to address in health care and employment, child care, the struggles that working families have," Warnock said.

  • "It's a crisis and we ought to take this moment to think about the kind of country we want to be and who we want to be for one another going forward."

Of note: That statement sounds a lot like what Warnock's likely fellow 2022 political candidate Stacey Abrams' campaign manager told Axios was the "organizing principle" of their campaign.

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