Farm Action Applauds New “Justice for Black Farmers Act”

Today, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are filing “The Justice for Black Farmers Act of 2020.” This bill takes up issues at the heart of the historic racial discrimination in U.S. agriculture by:

  • Establishing an Independent Civil Rights Oversight Board to review civil rights complaint appeals and investigate discrimination reports with USDA. The Board would also provide oversight of Farm Service Agency County Committees

  • Creating an Equity Commission to develop recommendations to end disparities in treatment of Black farmers

  • Forming a Black Farmer Land Grant through a new line agency at USDA where land of up to 160 acres would be available to Black individuals at no cost

  • Increasing credit access and land retention for marginalized farmers

  • Funding historically Black colleges and universities at a level of $500 million per year for 10 years to expand agricultural education

  • Strengthening existing antitrust enforcement through the Packers and Stockyards Act, with the knowledge that food chain workers of color are additionally vulnerable to economic and labor exploitation

Family Farm Action Alliance released the following statement: 

“We applaud the introduction of The Justice for Black Farmers Act of 2020 by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-NH) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). We stand in solidarity with Black farmers — those who currently farm, those who will have their land restored to them, and those who will have the opportunity to farm if this bill is to pass. The Justice for Black Farmers Act is a step to right the land and generational wealth loss that Black people in the United States have experienced and continue to experience. The legislation will redistribute power and provide land and resources so that all farmers may have the opportunity to prosper, steward the land, and feed their communities.”

Discrimination against Black farmers is sewn into the fabric of U.S. agriculture and over time it has gotten worse. In 1910, Black farmers owned 16 to 19 million acres of land and made up 14% of America’s farmers, while in 2017 Black farmers operated on 4.7 million acres of farmland and accounted for 1.4% of farmers in the U.S. Between 2012 and 2017 alone, the number of Black farmers has dropped 3%. Much of this land loss can be attributed to discriminatory lending, particularly by the hands of USDA.

Black land and farm loss is a symptom of disproportionate harm from corporate consolidation and industrialization of agriculture, when compared to harms experienced by white farmers. The Justice For Black Farmers Act recognizes this, providing a well-rounded approach and building the solid foundation needed to address the ongoing legacy of systemic racism and injustice that Black farmers have experienced in The United States. 

Media Contact: Anna Straus, anna@farmactionalliance.org

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