Among the many elements of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) passed by Congress to stimulate the economy in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic was a provision to provide debt relief to socially-disadvantaged farmers. The policy was designed to help Black, Hispanic, Asian American, and Indigenous farmers who have historically faced discrimination when it comes to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding and programs.

Before the relief could start rolling out, a number of white farmers took legal action against USDA, and the program is now tied up in the courts. It’s uncertain how long it will take for these lawsuits to be resolved or if debt relief will ever reach these farmers as intended. To help recap the situation and preview where things might go next, we’ve enlisted graphic journalist Nhatt Nichols to break it down in illustrated form.

Check out the comic below to understand what’s at stake in this ongoing story.

Comic panel reads "For decades, Black farmers have been disadvantaged by practices and policies at the US Department of Agriculture, according to reports on USDA funding by the environmental working group."
Comic panel reads "Relief appeared to be on the horizon for Black farmers when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last year that:"
Comic panel reads "'The American Rescue Plan has made it possible for USDA to deliver historic debt relief to socially disadvantaged famers and ranchers beginning in June."
Comic panel reads "'The USDA is recommitting itself to gaining the trust and confidence of America's farmers and ranchers using a new set of tools provided in the American Rescue Plan to increase opportunity, advance equity, and address systemic discrimination in USDA programs.'"
Comic panel reads "The debt relief program was created after only a tiny amount of the Trump Administration's Covid farm relief went to Black farmers."
Comic panel reads "'We saw 99 percent of the money going to white farmers and 1 percent going to socially disadvantaged farmers and if you break that down to how much went to Black farmers, it's 0.1 percent"
Comic panel reads "The proposal was for USDA to pay up to 120 percent of outstanding loan balances for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers"
Comic panel reads "According to the New York Times, USDA started sending letters in May asking farmers to confirm their debt balances. The payments were expected to start in June."
Comic panel reads "Then on June 23, a federal judge in Florida issued a preliminary injunction in response to a lawsuit filed by a white farmer arguing the debt relief program is unconstitutional for discriminating against white farmers on the basis of race."
Comic panel reads "The injunction stopped relief from being issued to farmers, but the USDA did not ask them to start making payments on their loans."
Comic panel reads "Once those payments became past due though, USDA automatically sent foreclosure warning letters to any borrowers who were past due on their loans"
Comic panel reads "Including about one third of the 15,000 socially disadvantaged farmers who had applied for the debt relief, according to USDA."
Comic panel reads "Now additional class-action lawsuits have been filed by white farmers against USDA, including Miller v. Vilsack in Texas."
Comic panel reads "In this case, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives-Land Assistance Fund has joined as a codefendant with USDA."
Comic panel reads "Working as codefendants will give the Black farmers, who have faced discrimination from USDA in the past, the ability to provide their own testimonies on how the debt relief program will address past discrimination."
Comic panel reads "Many member farmers in the federation have experienced discrimination from USDA personally and were not convinced it was the best organization to represent their interests."

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