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Commissioner Nikki Fried, Black Farmers Talk USDA's Paused Debt Relief Program

Photo: Franco Ripple
Photo: Franco Ripple

State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried was in Orlando at The Solutions Center in Pine Hills on Wednesday for a round table on debt relief for Black farmers. 

Fried has been advocating for the USDA to reinstate a program that would have provided 4 billion dollars in debt relief to Black farmers. 

She says supporting these farmers would help address food insecurity and generational poverty in the state.

“And so this is almost like a win, win, win situation. To teach these kids how to grow, and get them into business opportunities, feed them, and then also be part of something bigger than themselves.”

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The program is on hold due to dozens of lawsuits that claim it would give Black farmers an unfair advantage. 

Fried, says meanwhile she wants an angel donor program on the Florida Department of Agriculture website.

“Hey, I’m looking for an investor for 2,500 dollars for this, this, and this. And be able to let investors because there are some fantastic investors in agriculture all over the country. And if we are able to create almost like an angel fund right on our website. We can’t force it, we can’t do anything but at least put a portal there. Just a connection.”

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There used to be some 13,000 Black farmers in Florida. That number has dwindled to only 2,000.

Danielle Prieur covers education in Central Florida.