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Debt relief for U.S. minority farmers coming in June – USDA

The U.S. Agriculture Department said on Friday it will start erasing an estimated $4 billion dollars in debt to minority farmers in June, as it seeks to address racial discrimination.

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A view of a container filled with oranges and a ladder during a harvest at a farm in Lake Wales, Florida, U.S., April 1, 2020. REUTERS/Marco Bello

The U.S. Agriculture Department said on Friday it will start erasing an estimated $4 billion dollars in debt to minority farmers in June, as it seeks to address racial discrimination.

The Biden administration hopes to make right with Black and other minority farmers, who for decades have lost farmland in legal disputes and been denied loans and government assistance.

The American Rescue Plan Act, which became law in March, directed the USDA to pay off all farm debt held by “socially disadvantaged” minority farmers. It faced opposition from some white farmers and concern from banks.[L1N2KF3CT]

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the payments are needed because minority farmers did not have full access to USDA programs over the last 100 years.

“Chances are pretty good that you weren’t able to be competitive with white farmers, in purchasing land and purchasing equipment, having your crop planted at the right time,” he said in an interview.

“In some cases, those policies were designed specifically to remove socially disadvantaged farmers from their land.”

The legislation did not allocate a specific amount, but the USDA estimates $3.9 billion in farm-related debt is owed by minority farmers to the federal government and private banks. Payments will go out to banks and farmers in June after USDA confirms amounts with some 15,000 farmers by mail.

A century of discrimination against minority farmers has been documented since the late 1990s, when a group of Black farmers sued the agency in the case Pigford v. Glickman, later known as the Pigford settlement.

Lucious Abrams Jr, a 68-year-old farmer from Waynesboro, Georgia, was one of the plaintiffs, after the USDA denied and delayed him access to loans. He is frustrated it has taken months to roll out the debt relief.

“Nothing has transpired! This was done three months ago,” he said. “But they’re telling people you’ve got to write in.”

Abrams once farmed nearly 2,000 acres (810 hectares) of Georgia farmland, but has lost all but 600 acres, which he rents to other growers because he cannot get an operating loan, due to around $500,000 in outstanding USDA loan debt.

“I fought off foreclosure two times to keep them from putting me out of my house,” he said. “You were handcuffed.”

The debt-relief plan has drawn criticism from some agriculture lenders, however.

“The vast majority of these lenders are smaller, community banks that were planning on income from these loans,” said Edwin Elfmann, senior vice president of agriculture and rural banking policy at the American Banking Association, in a May 19 letter to Secretary Vilsack.

The payments represent less than 1% of all U.S. farm sector debt, which USDA estimated at $432.1 billion in 2020.

Vilsack said the benefits to lenders outweigh the risks, as many farm loans include a prepayment penalty, which protects the lender in the event of an early payoff. He said banks would be paid principle and interest and could loan the money out again.

A non-profit organization called American First Legal, led by former President Donald Trump’s advisor Steven Miller, filed suit against the Biden administration in April, claiming the debt relief provisions “excludes many potential beneficiaries based solely upon their ethnicity or race.”

Vilsack said white farmers have long had opportunities denied to Black farmers and received a larger proportion of the Trump administration’s coronavirus relief payments.

“With all due respect, white farmers have been treated pretty doggone well, especially during this COVID situation,” he said. “They shouldn’t feel discriminated against.”

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

“Chances are pretty good that you weren’t able to be competitive with white farmers, in purchasing land and purchasing equipment, having your crop planted at the right time,” he said in an interview.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/business/finance/debt-relief-us-minority-farmers-coming-june-usda-2021-05-21/

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Largest Boeing 737 MAX model set for maiden flight -source

Boeing Co (BA.N) was readying the largest member of its 737 MAX family for its maiden flight on Friday, a person familiar with the matter said, as the planemaker tries to close a sales gap with a competing Airbus (AIR.PA) jet.

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Grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are seen parked in an aerial photo at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, U.S. July 1, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo

SEATTLE, June 17 (Reuters) – Boeing Co (BA.N) was readying the largest member of its 737 MAX family for its maiden flight on Friday, a person familiar with the matter said, as the planemaker tries to close a sales gap with a competing Airbus (AIR.PA) jet.

The first voyage of the 737 MAX 10, expected around 10 a.m. local time from the Seattle area, the person said, heralds months of testing and certification before it enters service in 2023.

In an unusual departure from the PR buzz surrounding first flights, the event was expected to be kept low-key as Boeing tries to recover from overlapping crises caused by the 20-month safety grounding of the MAX and the global pandemic.

Boeing’s 230-seat 737-10 is designed to close the gap between its 178-to-220-seat 737-9, and the 185-to-240-seat A321neo, which dominates the top end of the narrowbody jet market, worth some $3.5 trillion over 20 years.

However, the market opportunity for the 737 MAX 10 is constrained by the jet’s range of 3,300 nm (6,100 km), which falls short of the A321neo’s 4,000 nm.

Boeing must also complete safety certification of the plane under a tougher regulatory climate following two fatal crashes of a smaller 737 MAX version grounded the model for nearly two years – with a safety ban still in place in China.

Relatively slow sales of the 737 MAX 10 and slightly smaller MAX 9 have given Boeing a strategic headache, analysts say.

It once studied plans to tinker with the 737 MAX 10 to extend the range against the A321neo, but is now weighing a bolder plan to replace the single-aisle 757, which overlaps with the top end of the MAX family.

Even so, Boeing is stepping up efforts to sell the 737 MAX 10, with key targets including Ireland’s Ryanair (RYA.I).

On display on Friday will be a revamped landing gear system illustrating the battle between Boeing and Airbus to squeeze as much mileage out of the current generation of single-aisles. It raises the landing gear’s height during take-off and landing, a design needed to compensate for the MAX 10’s extra length and prevent the tail scraping the runway on take-off.

Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by David Gregorio and Leslie Adler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Boeing’s 230-seat 737-10 is designed to close the gap between its 178-to-220-seat 737-9, and the 185-to-240-seat A321neo, which dominates the top end of the narrowbody jet market, worth some $3.5 trillion over 20 years.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/largest-boeing-737-max-model-set-maiden-flight-source-2021-06-18/

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EXCLUSIVE Galp to hold off on LNG investment until Mozambique ensures security

Portugal’s Galp Energia (GALP.LS), a partner in an Exxon Mobil-led gas consortium in Mozambique, will not invest in onshore plants there until authorities guarantee security and social stability, which may take time, CEO Andy Brown told Reuters.

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The logo of GALP is seen next to a petrol station of GALP company near Lisbon, Portugal July 30, 2018. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante/Files

Portugal’s Galp Energia (GALP.LS), a partner in an Exxon Mobil-led gas consortium in Mozambique, will not invest in onshore plants there until authorities guarantee security and social stability, which may take time, CEO Andy Brown told Reuters.

This marks a second setback to Mozambique’s hopes to develop a major liquefied nature gas (LNG) hub in the coming years after TotalEnergies (TOTF.PA) suspended its own, separate LNG project in the country.

Attacks by militants in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado region, near the $30 billion Rovuma liquefied natural gas project, have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee the area. read more

The Mozambican government has said it expects the consortium to take the final investment decision, already postponed from 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year.

But the CEO of Galp, which has a 10% stake in the consortium, told Reuters on Monday his company did not include investments in Rovuma’s onshore facilities in its net capital expenditure plan for the next five years.

“It means that at the moment it’s very hard for us to predict when the time to invest will be,” Brown said.

“Last year we were really planning to have built Rovuma by 2025 and I don’t want to make a promise on Rovuma and then disappoint the market again,” he said.

“We continue to monitor security developments in the region,” said Exxon (XOM.N) spokesperson Todd Spitler, adding that the company is working with the government of Mozambique “to enable development of this world class resource.”

The other major partner, Italy’s Eni (ENI.MI), declined to comment.

“Before Galp starts investing in the project, the government needs to work with the local population to create the right kind of stability and social cohesion, as well as security, on the ground … That may take a while,” Brown said.

Brown said that once France’s TotalEnergies, which stopped construction of a separate LNG project near Rovuma due to the latest attacks in March and is working with Mozambique to ensure stability in the area, has reliably resumed the work, “we will be in a position to consider our own project”.

Despite the setbacks, Mozambique with its attractive gas projects is “a really important country for Galp”, Brown said, and the consortium is “working to get the cost to a level where this project is really competitive”.

Brown said that over the next five years, Brazil will absorb “the vast majority” of the 320 million to 400 million euros ($388 million to $485 million) of net capex which Galp has allocated to upstream annually, while there will be “some investment in floating LNG in Mozambique and some small investments in Angola”.

The investments in Brazil will be “mostly allocated to already sanctioned developments, including the Bacalhau I,” he said.

($1 = 0.8252 euros)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The Mozambican government has said it expects the consortium to take the final investment decision, already postponed from 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/business/exclusive-galp-says-it-wont-invest-rovuma-until-mozambique-ensures-security-2021-06-14/

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Google dangles paid upgrade to businesses using Gmail addresses

Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday unveiled an option for small businesses to upgrade their Gmail accounts for greater calendaring, video chat and email newsletter functionalities.

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of Google is seen on a building at La Defense business and financial district in Courbevoie near Paris, France, September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

(Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday unveiled an option for small businesses to upgrade their Gmail accounts for greater calendaring, video chat and email newsletter functionalities.

Google Workspace Individual, which starts at $7.99 monthly including a temporary $2 discount, adds to the company’s expanding efforts to have users subscribe to some of its services such as YouTube and Google Photos in exchange for more support and features than are available for free. Subscription sales could help Google grow revenue beyond advertising.

The small-business offering compares with existing plans aimed at larger organizations that have their own websites to use in email addresses.

Javier Soltero, vice president for Google Workspace, told reporters that his unit had been informally saving photos of business cards or work vehicles mentioning an “@Gmail.com” address to “remind ourselves of the sheer number of people using our consumer products to run their businesses.”

Those that upgrade for appointment booking, newsletter production and other tools should be able to provide a more professional experience to clients, he said.

Workspace Individual will launch soon in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Australia and Japan.

Google announced other changes to Workspace on Monday. Big businesses will be able to control encryption of their files on Google Drive for the first time and prevent Google from unlocking them. Airbus SE is an early customer.

All users now have access to Google Chat, the company’s successor to instant-message program Google Hangouts.

Now for the first time in years, free and paid users alike will have the same set of chat and email services, providing a common foundation that makes it simpler to develop new features, Soltero said.

Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/alphabet-google-workspace/google-dangles-paid-upgrade-to-businesses-using-gmail-addresses-idUSL2N2NT21G

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