Missouri Congressman Sam Graves claims federal relief package for Black farmers “un-American”
What happened to equal protection under the law? This is wrong and un-American. I’m sure there are a lot of Americans…
[Update: On the afternoon of March 11, Graves issued a response regarding the post to KQ2. Our request for comment was never returned. The rep’s statement is about what you’d expect.]
As part of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief stimulus package that is expected to pass soon, $5 billion will be set aside to aid farmers of color. Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), proposed the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act to provide immediate relief to Black, native, and indigenous farmers. This relief would be a first step in bringing equity to farmers that have historically been oppressed.
Local Congressman Sam Graves, a Republican from Missouri’s 6th district, however, disapproves of the act.
The 6th Congressional district includes North Kansas City and essentially all of northern Missouri. Adair, Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Daviess, De Kalb, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Holt, Jackson, Knox, Lewis, Linn, Livingston, Macon, Marion, Mercer, Monroe, Nodaway, Pike, Platte, Putnam, Ralls, Schuyler, Scotland, Shelby, Sullivan, and Worth counties are included in the district. Graves has been representing the district since 2001. His term ends Nov. 2022.
In a Facebook post (from his verified account) that Graves later removed comments from, the Congressman posted an article from Rolling Stone about the act and said that giving aid to farmers of color is “wrong and un-American.”
Graves edited the post from “What happened to equal protection under the law? This is wrong and un-American.” to its current caption in addition to removing the comments. The edit seems to be his attempt at tempering his comments but only made his intentions even more clear. At its best, Graves thinks that giving debt relief to a group of farmers disproportionally hit by COVID-19 aid isn’t fair.
The Congressman isn’t against farming subsidies, to be clear. Graves and his family have received over $660,000 in farming subsidies from 1995-2020. Beyond his family, Graves has supported the nearly $5 billion in subsidies given to farmers in his district since 1995. Between 2019-2020, 6th District farmers received $536 million in subsidies.
The difference, for Graves, between Missouri farmers and their GOP official relying on federal money and farmers of color receiving long-awaited relief isn’t a matter of opposing debt relief. To reiterate: $5 billion in subsidies over the past 25 years given to one district alone is necessary to Graves, but $5 billion given to farmers of color all over the U.S. is un-American. It’s pretty clear where Graves is going with this.
Not only does Graves think overdue aid to farmers of color is un-American, he thinks it shows a lack of equal protection under the law. Not sure he knows what that term means?
In 1920, the number of Black farmers in the United States was at its peak. That small peak: 14 percent of farmers were Black. Today, there are fewer than 36,000 Black farmers today as opposed to 925,000 in 1920—that’s about 1 percent of farmland that Black farmers own today.
That decline in farmland is due to systemic discrimination—mostly on the part of the USDA—against farmers of color. The USDA excluded farmers of color from subsidies, farm programs, and loans. As well, the USDA was over 6 times more likely to foreclose on a Black farmer over a white one. Between 1910 and 1997, Black farmers lost over 90 percent of their wealth because of the USDA’s discrimination. Those discriminatory practices insured that white farmers only lost 2 percent of their wealth in the same time period. As if actively discriminating against farmers of color wasn’t enough, the USDA also hid those complaints.
“They routinely put the complaints in the corner and ignored them until the statute of limitations ran out,” said an anonymous USDA employee who worked on civil rights complaints from farmers in the Bush years.
Due to the years of discrimination and lack of aid, Black farmers make about $40,000 annually whereas white farmers average over $190,000. That’s without factoring in how badly hit farmers of color were because of COVID-19.
For a Congressman whose Facebook is quite literally plastered with pictures of farmland and support for farmers, Graves has made it abundantly clear exactly which farmers he’s working for.
The Pitch has reached out for comment and will update if the request is returned.