The changes are tucked into the climate and tax legislation known as the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. The original debt relief program, part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan of 2021, was intended to help farmers. The changes are drawing backlash from the farmers whom the original program was meant to help.

The legislation passed the Senate this week and is expected to pass the House on Friday. It would create two new funds to help farmers. One, at $2.2 billion, would provide financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners who faced discrimination before 2021.

The money would replace the $4 billion program that was intended to aid about 15,000 farmers. The other would provide $3.1 billion for the Agriculture Department to make payments for loans or loan modifications to farmers who faced financial distress. The money would be used to pay for farm loans or modifications.

Last year’s pandemic relief package included an additional $1 billion for outreach to farmers and ranchers of color. They included those who are Black, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian American, Pacific Islander or Hispanic. White farmers and groups representing them questioned whether the government could base debt relief on race.

The program was frozen as lawsuits worked their way through the courts. The program also faced resistance from banks, which argued that their profits would suffer if the loans they had made to farmers were suddenly repaid. Democrats rewrote the law to remove race from the eligibility requirements. It has since been approved by the U.S. Congress.
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