Congressional Leaders Introduce Legislation to Address Discrimination Against Black Farmers

Statement by Dr. Ricardo Salvador, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Jan 26, 2023

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Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative Alma Adams (D-NC), yesterday reintroduced the Justice for Black Farmers Act, which would address a history of discrimination within agriculture, supporting a new generation of Black farmers while protecting existing Black farmers at risk of losing their land.

The legislation would reform the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to end discriminatory lending and assistance practices that have resulted in significant land loss for Black farmers. The bill also provides funding to resolve farmland ownership and succession issues, as well as training, financial and technical assistance for existing and aspiring Black farmers and ranchers.

Below is a statement by Dr. Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Over the last hundred years, the number of Black farmers has shrunk from 14 percent to less than two percent of U.S. farmers, owning just half a percent of all farmlands. This decline is largely the result of over a century and a half of discrimination that has denied Black farmers the financial and technical assistance freely given to their White peers and has cost Black farmers their land and livelihoods.

“The Justice for Black Farmers Act is an opportunity to begin to rectify and repair decades of discrimination while also investing in the next generation of farmers. The Union of Concerned Scientists applauds Senator Booker and Representative Adams for their leadership in addressing discrimination in U.S. agriculture.”

Key provisions in the legislation designed to support Black farmers and other underserved farmers include:

  • Establishing an independent board to oversee civil rights within the USDA, and a Civil Rights Ombudsman to help individuals navigate the process of complaints against discriminatory practices;
  • Requiring the USDA to provide public data and annual reports on recipients of assistance broken down by race, gender, and ethnicity;
  • Providing land grants and training to eligible Black farmers;
  • Establishing a Farm Conservation Corps to help qualified young people aged 18-29 from socially disadvantaged groups to pursue careers in agriculture;
  • Providing $500 million per year for 10 years to Historically Black Colleges and Universities to conduct agriculture research, offer courses, and recruit students;
  • Increasing funding to protect Black land ownership, and providing additional credit assistance;
  • Scaling up funding tenfold for the Local Agriculture Market Program to help small and midsize farmers provide more nutritious food to U.S. consumers;
  • Increasing funding for the Conservation Technical Assistance Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program by $2 billion and boosting funding for the Rural Energy for America Program from $50 million to $500 million per year.

Additional Resources:

  • A blog post by Dr. Omanjana Goswami breaking down the Justice for Black Farmers Act.
  • For more information on the obstacles facing Black, Indigenous and immigrant and refugee aspiring farmers, check out the Leveling the Fields policy brief.
  • A 2021 UCS report, “Losing Ground," examines increasing levels of farmland consolidation and its disproportionate consequences for Black farmers.