On Thursday, November 19th, Senators Booker and Warren, with cosponsor Senator Gillibrand, released the Justice for Black Farmers Act. This sweeping bill has endorsements from the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, the National Black Food and Justice Alliance, Rural Coalition, Soul Fire Farm Institute, and many other leaders in the movement to achieve racial equity in agriculture. The National Young Farmers Coalition is also among the list of endorsers.
The Justice for Black Farmers Act is intended to address and correct the historic discrimination against Black farmers in U.S. agricultural policy. It includes many important reforms and new programs to do so, including:
- An independent Civil Rights Oversight Board to oversee the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights, and investigate and review civil rights within the agency;
- An Equity Commission to study past discrimination against Black farmers and recommend solutions to better support these producers in the future;
- The Equitable Land Access Service, a new agency within USDA that would purchase land from willing sellers to administer land grants of up to 160 acres to qualified Black producers at no cost, and provide monetary grants to organizations to help Black farmers access land;
- Increased funding to Historically Black Colleges and Universities to support agricultural education;
- A Farm Conservation Corps to provide paid on-farm training to young farmers; and
- Increased appropriations authority for the Heirs Property Relending Program, up to $50 million, among many other provisions.
For a section-by-section overview of all of the policies included in the bill, please visit this link.
The history and current state of land tenure and ownership in the United States is deeply unequal. Today only 5% of all farms are owned by non-white landowners. Over the last century, the number of Black farmers has decreased by 98% as they have faced discrimination in access to programs and systematic dispossession of their land. This historic discrimination must be addressed in order to ensure that young farmers of color are able to succeed in their agricultural careers. In addition, Young Farmers recognizes that our agricultural system has many other legacies to address in terms of inequitable land tenure, notably the forced dispossession of land from Indigenous communities. Legislative attention to these histories are long overdue, and policies that endeavor to make land access, ownership, and tenure more equitable for all must be a focus in the next Congress.
The Justice for Black Farmers Act lays out key policies for advancing equity in agriculture as we look ahead to the next Congressional session and the 2023 Farm Bill. The National Young Farmers Coalition applauds the organizations that led the writing of this bill, and looks forward to being a part of this important policy conversation, and supporting the needs of allied organizations in the coming months.