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North Carolina Congresswoman Alma Adams and New Jersey U.S. Senator Cory Booker have teamed up to provide relief and support to a dwindling population through the Justice for Black Farmers Act.

Introduced at the end of February, the bill would provide debt relief and create a land grant program to inspire a new generation of Black farmers. The duo previously introduced the bill in 2021, but it was unsuccessful.

A century ago, 1 million African American farmers worked land they owned in the United States. Today, after decades of federal loan discrimination and racial domestic terrorism, that number is down to roughly 45,000, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Black farmers have gone from owning 16-19 million acres of farm land, an all-time high in 1919, to owning less than 2% of the agricultural land today.

Associated Press

“During the 20th Century, Black farmers lost over $300 billion worth of farmland and acreage – a loss that further exacerbated the wealth gap for Black Americans. That’s one of the many reasons why I’m proud to reintroduce the Justice for Black Farmers Act,” Congresswoman Adams (NC-12) said.

The bill, known as H.R. 1167 in the U.S. House and S. 96 in the U.S. Senate, has drawn 13 cosponsors in the House and seven in the Senate.

“The Justice for Black Farmers Act seeks to correct persistent injustices and help restore the land base that Black farmers have lost,” Sen. Booker said.

Justice for Black Farmers Act: What would it do?

Following the end of slavery, many freedmen became tenant farmers rather than landowners. Despite lynchings and threats from racist whites and the blatant discrimination from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, African American farmers became a force.

Yet discriminatory policies and violent actions resulted in Black farmers losing a combined 12 million acres of farm land over the last century, according to a report from Feeding America.

black farmers
Lateef Dowdell stands on land once belonging to his uncle Gil Alexander, who was the last active Black farmer in the community of Nicodemus, Kan., Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. Dowdell moved back to Nicodemus, a settlement founded by former slaves known as “exodusters” in the 1870s, several years earlier to take over the farm after his uncle died, but soon after lost most of the land when the bank foreclosed. New legislation in Congress aims to remedy historical inequities in government farm programs that have helped reduce the number of Black farmers in the United States from about a million in 1920 to less than 50,000 today. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

President Biden attempted to rectify decades of systemic racism from the USDA by establishing a debt relief program targeted to Black Americans. Yet after white farmers complained of reverse racism and sued, the Biden administration made the program race-neutral when it passed as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, effectively limiting the relief owed to Black farmers.

The Justice for Black Farmers Act would:

  • End discrimination within USDA by establishing an independent civil rights oversight board to provide Black Farmers free assistance and support.
  • Protect remaining Black farmers from land loss by increasing funding for the Heirs’ Property Relending Program and creating a newly funded bank for Black farmers to access grants and financing.
  • Restore land by directing the USDA to acquire farm land and provide grants of up to 160 acres to existing and aspiring Black farmers.
  • Create a Farm Conservation Corp that would train youth from “socially disadvantaged communities” in the skills necessary to become a farmer or rancher.
  • Provides funding and resources to HBCUS and Black farmer advocacy organizations to expand trainings and agricultural research for a new generation of Black farmers.
  • Assist all socially disadvanted farmers and ranchers by increasing funding to USDA programs.
  • Strengthens the Packers and Stockyards Act to “stop abusive practices” by big multinational meatpacking companies.

What’s next?

Attention to the plight of Black farmers has grown as some have accused officials in Tennessee of trying to hustle them off their land to make way for new road construction.

In the Republican-controlled House, it remains to be seen whether the bill will move out of the Committee on Agriculture, where Chairman and Pennsylvania Republican Glenn Thompson has the power to call a committee vote.

In the Senate, the bill has been read twice and referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, where Senate Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has the power to call a vote on it.

A full list of cosponsors include House Representatives Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Cori Bush (D-MO), Andre Carson (D-IN), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Melanie Stansbury (D-NM), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), and Marilyn Strickland (D-WA).

In the Senate, cosponsors include Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tina Smith (D-MN), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

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1 Comment

  1. Greetings,
    I’m still wondering where the COVID relief is for Black Farmers? 4Billion was allocated and white corporate farmers who received funding under tRUMP launched an injunction against the bill. This kind of falls in line with the article.

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