Nikki Fried Hosts Forum Highlighting ‘Rigged System’ Against Black Farmers



Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried joined South Florida lawmakers on Friday to host a virtual discussion on increasing opportunities – including private and public funding – for black Florida farmers.

“It’s an opportunity to really highlight and present and tell the rest of the country what happened,” Fried said of Friday’s discussion. “If you are not involved in agriculture or if you are not part of a minority, you may not understand what has historically happened in our country.

Fried and his fellow panelists took a particular interest in the policies of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Black farmers have fought with the agency for decades, sometimes sue alleging that the USDA discriminated against black farmers by disproportionately providing relief and other government resources to white farmers.

“It has been nearly impossible for farmers of color to acquire land, access finance and start farms,” Fried said. “And that’s often made more difficult by our federal agencies like the USDA.”

Senator Shevrin jones of West Park and Rep. Kevin chambliss from Homestead also joined Friday’s Zoom conference. The conversation was part of an effort by Democrats to highlight billions of dollars available to black farmers in the American rescue plan. Congressional Democrats approved this package, which was backed by the president Joe biden, earlier this year.

“It is a step towards more equality, equity and inclusion, and a great opportunity for those who historically do not have a seat at the table to fight against this rigged system that has been in place since. forever here in the United States, ”Fried said. , who is running for the Democratic nomination in the 2022 gubernatorial race.

With the Biden administration and the USDA secretary Tom vilsack promising more resources for black farmers, a group of white farmers has now filed a complaint allegation of discrimination.

While Chambliss disagreed with the merits of this lawsuit and welcomed the additional federal assistance, he argued that the lawsuit could be useful in calling attention to the systemic obstacles facing the community. black farmer is facing.

“Black farmers have been at a disadvantage within the USDA. So I almost feel like it’s actually an opportunity to highlight it more specifically, ”he said.

Jones also cited the medical marijuana production licensing debate here in Florida as another example of systemic discrimination. According to Florida’s original proposal, farmers could only qualify for a license if they had operated a registered nursery in the state for 30 consecutive years. This posed a problem for black farmers who, Friday speakers explained, encountered obstacles in starting their farms.

“This is not a new problem that we have been faced with,” Jones said of the ongoing debate. “I remember being on the health and social services committee when we were dealing with black farmers with medical marijuana and making sure they had access to it. And so this fight is not new.

No specific policy proposal emerged from Friday’s meeting to further help black farmers. Jones and Chambliss both said they would work on state-level legislation alongside Fried and Sheilah montgomery, who is President and CEO of Florida A&M University Federal Credit Union. Montgomery also participated in Friday’s virtual conference.

Chambliss said Friday’s discussion was a good way to draw attention to the plight of black farmers, but more legislative work needs to be done.

“I thank the Commissioner for her leadership on this issue, her inclusiveness on this issue,” said Chambliss. “The work we do now is good for the future of agriculture here in Florida and in the United States.

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