Federal programs are failing to reach and support the next generation of farmers and ranchers.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is tasked with ensuring the success of our nation’s farmers and ranchers, but for decades its programs and policies have been designed to support a select few: larger and larger operations, primarily growing commodities (for export). In addition to exclusive program design, documented discrimination at USDA has contributed to the significant decline in Black farmers.
For generations, this discrimination, paired with harmful public policy, has facilitated the dispossession of millions of acres from Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC). As a result, white individuals now account for 95 percent of all farmers, own 98 percent of farmland, and receive the vast majority of agriculture-related financial assistance. This new generation of farmers are largely unfamiliar with of USDA programs or do not trust the Agency, and those who do seek support face tremendous obstacles.
Seventy-one percent of respondents in our 2022 Young Farmers Report reported being unfamiliar with USDA programs, and 26% had applied but were denied.
The next generation of producers are innovative and open to trying alternative methods for growing food and marketing it to their communities. USDA must ensure that its officers are empowered and expected to work with and understand these new growers, and to make every local, county, or state office a one-stop shop for programs specifically designed to benefit young and BIPOC farmers.