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US Agriculture Secretary Says American Families Plan Will Help Georgia Farmers
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the proposed American Families Plan includes $300 billion for the USDA to purchase and distribute food, money for debt forgiveness and education outreach for socially disadvantaged farmers. GPB's Ellen Eldridge reports.
The White House is calling its American Families Plan an investment in the foundations of middle-class prosperity: education, health care, and child care.
That includes farmers in rural parts of Georgia, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
By making the Earned Income Tax Credit Expansion for childless workers permanent, about 570,000 low-wage workers will have support. Many of those Georgians are essential workers, 54% of whom are people of color.
Georgia has one of the largest percentage of Black principal farm operators in the nation, and many of them recently expressed frustration concerning promised help.
Black farmers received a small fraction — about 0.1% — of Trump’s coronavirus relief for American farmers last year, and federal data show much of that bailout money to help farmers went to larger and predominantly white-owned farm operators.
While Sen. Raphael Warnock helped secure $5 billion out of the recently passed $1.9 trillion federal coronavirus relief package to help disadvantaged farmers of color, Warnock also admitted the struggle to effectively and equitably distribute those funds.
The senator told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he’s pressed agricultural officials with “absolute urgency that we get this done and we get it done right.”
All Georgia families, regardless of whether they are farmers or not, will be interested in planned educational opportunities, Vilsack said, including access to free pre-K and community college.
The proposed American Families Plan includes “a tremendous set of opportunities” that will benefit millions of children with opportunities for schools, particularly elementary schools, to be able to provide universal free meals more easily.
“So, really, a significant first, once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-generation opportunity to really make a difference,” he said. “And the impact of this effect could be to cut child poverty in half.”
Additionally, farmers will have opportunities to benefit from “climate smart agricultural practices,” Vilsack said.
Those in agriculture could be paid to sequester carbon, he said, and to lower the cost of electricity on their farms by expanding renewable energy.
"I think farmers in Georgia and across the country are going to be favorably inclined toward these programs because they understand that it creates new opportunities," Vilsack said. "It creates a broader diversity of income opportunities for them. And I think that they will be supportive of that."
The plan also includes $300 billion for the USDA to purchase and distribute food, money for debt forgiveness and education outreach for socially disadvantaged farmers.