Systematic Racism at the USDA Has Virtually Eliminated Black Farmers

The loss of black farmland has had a profound impact on rural black communities

Systematic Racism at the USDA Has Virtually Eliminated Black Farmers

A crop farmer and recipient of USDA farm subsidies works to prepare equipment for evening planting of corn in Hull, Sioux County, Iowa, April 2011 | Getty/Melina Mara

A century ago, roughly 14 percent of farmers were black; by 2012, that number had shrunk to 1.58 percent.  “Progressive Governance Can Turn the Tide for Black Farmers,” by Abril Castro and Zoe Willingham, examines the ways in which discriminatory policies by the U.S. government, and especially the USDA, throughout the 20th century and up to the Trump era have led to the elimination of black farmers. The authors found that black farmers have had less access to credit and less access to extension programs than their white counterparts, preventing black farmers from modernizing and scaling up their farms as white farmers have done. The loss of black farmland has had a profound impact on rural black communities, which today suffer from severe economic challenges, among them a poverty rate twice that of rural white communities.

“This report illustrates the importance of understanding American history and the impact of systematic racism in our agricultural system,” said Danyelle Solomon, vice president of Race and Ethnicity Policy at CAP. “As the report notes, black farmers were systematically removed from the farming industry through government policy and practices. Between 1920 and 2007, black farmers lost 80 percent of their land. Moving forward, policymakers must ensure that agricultural policy includes targeted and intentional policies that correct these harms by expanding access to land and technical resources for black farmers.”

The report gives several policy recommendations for protecting the livelihoods of black farmers:

  • Protecting inherited family farms

  • Expanding research and technical assistance for farmers of color

  • Regular oversight and audits of the USDA by the Government Accountability Office

  • Expanding access to land for black farmers

Read “Progressive Governance Can Turn the Tide for Black Farmers” by Abril Castro and Zoe Willingham.