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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency announced it will begin distributing loan forgiveness payments to Black and other minority farmers in June as part of President Biden's American Rescue Plan.

Details: Approximately $4 billion of the COVID-19 relief plan has been allocated to help those "who have faced a legacy of financial discrimination," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes.

  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the Washington Post that farmers "will get a letter that advises them that their debt is in the process of being paid." He added that eligible farmers will get an additional 20% of the loan as a cash payment "to cover the tax burden that comes with such large debt relief," the Post writes.
  • Vilsack added he estimates the program will benefit up to 13,000 Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian American and Pacific Islander farmers.

What he's saying: "For Black and minority farmers, the American Rescue Plan could represent one of the most significant pieces of civil rights legislation in decades," Vilsack said in a USA Today op-ed.

  • "That’s because deep within the law is a provision that responds to decades of systemic discrimination perpetrated against farmers and ranchers of color by the U.S. Department of Agriculture," he continued.
  • "This debt relief is long overdue. And let me be clear: supporting socially disadvantaged farmers in rural Georgia means supporting local jobs and the local economies they are inextricably a part of," Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) said in a statement after USDA's announcement, according to AJC.

The big picture: Some Black farmers have accused USDA of delaying the program, worrying it would actually not go into effect, per AJC. A group of white farmers sued the federal government in late April, alleging the measure was discriminatory.

  • Vilsack said that during the last administration, only 0.1% of the COVID relief passed for American farmers went to Black farmers.

Go deeper

Pelosi announces bid for re-election ahead of 2022 midterms

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced her bid for re-election Tuesday, amid a deluge of other safe-seat Democrats announcing their retirements.

Why it matters: Pelosi’s announcement follows months of speculation — despite her denials — that she was preparing to leave Congress.

Scoop: Qatar emir to visit White House on Monday

The emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, leaves the White House after meeting President Trump in 2019. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The emir of Qatar will meet with President Biden at the White House on Monday to discuss Afghanistan as well as contingency plans to provide natural gas to Europe in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Europe's reliance on Russia for 40% of its natural gas is undermining Biden's attempts to coordinate "massive" sanctions to be imposed from both sides of the Atlantic if Russia invades. The White House wants Qatar to help ensure European countries can enforce tough sanctions without risking an energy crisis.

Biden: There won't be "American forces moving into Ukraine"

President Joe Biden told reporters Tuesday that he does not foresee U.S. troops moving into Ukraine.

Why it matters: Biden's comments come as tensions between Russia and Ukraine persist, and a Russian invasion of Ukraine appears increasingly likely.

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