As U.S. Continues to Lose Black Farmers, USDA Must Implement New Equity Commission Recommendations with Speed, Science Group Says

Statement by Dr. Ricardo Salvador, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Feb 22, 2024

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Equity Commission today released its final recommendations to address disparities and advance equity within the USDA, its programs and services.

The recommendations follow last week’s release of 2022 Census of Agriculture findings that agriculture remains a predominately white industry, with white farmers accounting for 95% of all farmers. The proportion of Black farmers has continued to decline. In 2022, Black farmers made up just 1.2% of producers, compared to 1.3% in 2017 and 1.4% in 2012. This is a continuation of a longstanding and concerning trend. At the start of the last century, one in seven U.S. farmers was Black; according to this new data, Black farmers make up just one in 81 producers.

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

“The Biden administration and USDA have made a strong commitment to advancing equity within the agency, rectifying past injustices and ensuring that every community has access to the programs and services they need, and the Equity Commission was an opportunity to receive valuable input from communities that have been historically excluded from benefiting from USDA programs and services. The recommendations of the Equity Commission are based on the expertise of stakeholders from across the food and agriculture system and USDA should act to implement them with speed and care.

“The recent Census of Agriculture highlights the urgency of this moment. The U.S. agriculture system continues to lose Black and Indigenous farmers. And a small fraction of relatively wealthy farmers disproportionately benefits from USDA financial assistance like disaster relief and price loss coverage. We’re grateful to the members of the Equity Commission for their work and dedication to making our food and farm system fairer and more just.”