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Report Outlines Strategies To Address Black Farmer Inequalities

Pat Crenshaw, 79, is a black Native American, who owns and operates 120 acres in Slick, Oklahoma. Her father purchased the land through Farmers Home Administration in 1945, a time when it was uncommon for minorities to receive loans through the government. Having lived on the land since 1945 with her parents, she began maintaining the 120-acre ranch by herself since her father passed away in 2001. USDA photo by Preston Keres.

In 1920, there were nearly 1 million African American farmers. Today, there are only 45,000, according to recently released census data from the USDA.

So where did all the black farmers go? And how do we restore black farm ownership in America?

A report issued last month by the Center for American Progress aims to answer just that.

“Progressive Governance Can Turn the Tide for Black Farmers” outlines the case for government-sanctioned discrimination against black farmers dating back to just after the Civil War, including discriminatory agricultural policies in the New Deal and throughout decades at the USDA.

It also outlines policies that can reverse that discrimination, including:

  • Establishing a public land trust for beginning farmers of color;
  • Expanding access to land and legal aid;
  • Expanding research and technical assistance to farmers of color;
  • Committing to oversight and regular audits;
  • And protecting heirs’ property rights.

As the CAP report points out, the 2018 Farm Bill seems to be a step in the right direction in implementing these policies.

The Bill includes provisions to aid heirs’ property owners in accessing programs and loans through the USDA, by making it easier for farmers to prove ownership. It also includes increased funding for historically black land-grant universities.

The CAP report calls out the need for continued commitment at the federal level to ensure these policies endure and new ones are implemented.

Read More:

  • African Americans Have Lost Untold Acres of Land Over the Last Century (The Nation)
  • There were nearly a million black farmers in 1920. Why have they disappeared? (The Guardian)
  • “It’s not fair, not right’: how America treats its black farmers (The Guardian)
Taylor Killough

Taylor Killough has degrees anthropology and journalism. She has worked with the oral history project StoryCorps. A nomad at heart, she recently returned to Louisville, Kentucky, where's she's excited to have her own kitchen and garden again.

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