WASHINGTON, DC -- Set for a vote on Friday, the 2018 Farm Bill drew the passionate ire this week of a metro Atlanta congressman, who called the bill "racist."
U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-13) condemned the bill for what he called its "separate and unequal treatment of our nation's 1890s Land Grant African-American Universities.
"It's time for these schools to finally be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve," he said.
The legislation is a major priority for House GOP leaders because it would dramatically revamp the food stamp program, part of a broader Republican effort to curb federal welfare programs.
The $868 billion measure would set food and farm policy for the next five years.
Democrats are staunchly opposed to the GOP-crafted bill, primarily because of the changes to the food stamp program. The Republican bill would restrict eligibility and require millions of low-income Americans who receive nutritional assistance to work at least 20 hours a week or enroll in a job training program.
Democrats say the new requirements would slash benefits to needy families and the elderly, jeopardizing their ability to put food on the table. The food stamp program is officially known as SNAP, for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Here is a full transcript of Scott's remarks:
“Mr. Chairman, let me make it very clear from the very beginning that this is a racist farm bill. Make no mistake about it. The good Lord said you should know the truth and the truth shall set you free, and the truth is that this is unfortunately a racist farm bill. Let me tell you why.
“After the Civil War, when the South was utterly destroyed, they established land grant colleges. And in the 30 years later, because there was so much struggle without adequate freedom for my people, African-Americans, they established the 1890 land grant colleges because they had Plessy vs Ferguson, establishing the separate but equal doctrine. Yeah, they were separated already, but never equal!
“These 1890 colleges have never gotten the financial support to even come close to the white 1860's that were there. So, we tried to make amends in this Farm Bill to come up with a very noble idea with the shortage of younger people not going into agriculture, not going into science and technology and research to feed the future. We established scholarships to go to the 1890's.
“But you know what? When they took our bill and put it in the Farm Bill, they took the money out, just like they did back in the 1890's. Black people in this country have suffered too long and we need to put a stop to it.
“I know that this House will not put the money back in. It was just a million dollars a year for each of the five years, just trying to get people into these land grant colleges and universities. Not every black person wants to necessarily play football or basketball. They also want to be scientists and feed the future.
“This is a terrible bill and I’m asking that the Senate put the $95 million back into this bill and let's finally treat the 1890 Land Grant African-American schools with the respect and the dignity that you have never given to them!”
USA Today contributed to this report.