On June 27th, Land Advocacy Fellow Benu Amun-Ra participated in a roundtable discussion at a farm bill listening session hosted by Senator Michael Bennet, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, in Fort Morgan, Colorado. Below is the written testimony Benu submitted that highlights the need for equitable land access in the 2023 Farm Bill.
Good morning everyone and representatives from Senator Bennet’s office. Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you today and for taking the time to hear your constituents’ voices. My name is Benu Amun-Ra and I am a member of the National Young Farmers Coalition. We address structural barriers facing young farmers through farm bill advocacy, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) program reform, and by training key stakeholders and service providers to better serve the next generation.
I commend Senator Bennet for recently supporting the fight for food insecurity by extending child nutrition programs and increasing EBT benefits. But the upcoming farm bill must do better to support our farmers and producers that sustain the systems that provides healthy, nutritious food to our hungry families. In the U.S., 900 million acres of land are in agriculture. Access to land is the number one challenge facing the next generation of farmers in the United States, and this barrier is even greater for farmers of color. As a coalition of growers and land stewards, equitable access to land is our top priority and should be yours too.
Land is deeply intertwined with all aspects of farmers’ success, and it does not just impact farmers—land access is critical to the health and well-being of our environment, economy, and marginalized communities. Land ownership is rooted in the dispossession of Indigenous land and centuries of stolen labor from people of color sanctioned through policy, while the contributions to agriculture from these communities have gone unacknowledged.
As a result, land ownership in the U.S. is vastly unequal—98% of all farmland is owned by white landowners and 95% of farmers are white. At the same time, the cost of land is rising, the climate crisis threatens farm viability, land continues to be developed at an alarming rate, and the agricultural land that remains is increasingly owned by non-farmers.
Land is fundamental to survival. Access to this resource should not be a privilege. As we work toward a future defined by racial equity, community well-being, and climate resilience, land must be centered in our policymaking and our organizing. My family lost our land in Fort Collins due to gentrification, rising taxes, and the constraints felt by the pandemic that are felt far more for families of color.
We are asking you to help support us in changing policy to eliminate inequities in land ownership and access; protect farmland for young farmers and producers; facilitate appropriate, affordable, and secure land tenure; and support farm viability and transition for farmers of color.
We hope you will stand with us and back the One Million Acres for the Future Campaign. One million acres is only 0.111% of the 900 million acres of land already allotted to farmers. We look forward to working with you in protecting future generations of farmers and land stewards.