We must prevent the erasure of Black farmers.
In 1910, Black farmers made up 14 percent of the U.S. farming population. Today they make up only 1.4 percent of the population and it’s likely that discriminatory practices within the government are the cause, reports Black Enterprise.
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Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, agricultural communities throughout the country were faced with many challenges as a result of former President Donald Trump’s trade wars with China.
On the other hand, these issues barely touch the surface of what Black farmers have been up against for centuries.
According to the Associated Press (AP), Black farmers have less access to technical support and credit than their white counterparts which makes it harder for them to not only update equipment and purchase seed but also takes a toll on their ability to buy more land and operate their farms.
Coupled with those challenges is racial bias at almost every level of government that has pushed them off of their land.
“They do not want Black farmers to have any farm ground whatsoever,” said Rod Bradshaw, a Black farmer who raises cattle, wheat, and milo in an interview with the AP. “Farm ground gives you power, not a lot, but it gives you some power.”
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Due to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency’s reliance on local loan authorities to make loan decisions, authorities have been in majority White rural areas leading to both racist and discriminatory practices.
Back in 1999, The Pigford Settlement agreed to $1.25 billion and was intended to support farmers affected by discriminatory practices that kept them from obtaining government assistance and loans.However, few, if any Black farmers benefited from the settlement.
Again, the Trump Administration did more harm than good with its refusal to fill the position of assistant to the secretary of civil rights, according to Black Enterprise.
Despite the agency’s announcement in October 2020 to commit $19.1 million to support disadvantaged veteran farmers and ranchers, Black farmers say not only is this not enough, but they’re unsure if they’ll ever even get the funds.
Now their hope lies within the Biden Administration to pass the Justice for Black Farmers Act.
Co-sponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), this bill would enact policies that will end discrimination within the USDA, provide land grants for a new generation of Black farmers, and most importantly, protect current Black farmers from losing their land.
“Overtly discriminatory and unjust federal policy has robbed Black families in the United States of the ability to build and pass on intergenerational wealth,” said Sen. Booker in a statement on his website. “When it comes to farming and agriculture, we know that there is a direct connection between discriminatory policies within the USDA and the enormous land loss we have seen among Black farmers over the past century. The Justice for Black Farmers Act will work to correct this historic injustice by addressing and correcting USDA discrimination and taking bold steps to restore the land that has been lost in order to empower a new generation of Black farmers to succeed and thrive.”
For more on how you can support Black farmers, click here.