A Centre for Public Integrity article says that over the past century, Black-owned land used for farming has dropped 85 per cent. The loss harms rural Black communities and erodes generational wealth. Federal discrimination has played an outsized part.
But does the American Rescue Plan that Biden signed last week signal change is afoot? Inside the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 bill was $5 billion in direct relief to farmers of colour.
The bulk of the funds will go toward paying off United States Department of Agriculture farm loan debts and related taxes that have trapped farmers in “a cycle of debt,” Vilsack said. The remaining $1 billion aims to eradicate systemic racism at the USDA by supporting legal aid, forming a racial equity commission, providing scholarships to historically Black land grant universities and more.
“The thing that this whole legislation begs for is context,” said Pete Daniel, author and historian of agriculture and the South.
When President Joe Biden announced that he was reappointing Tom Vilsack as secretary of the US Department of Agriculture, many advocates questioned whether the new administration was serious about tackling the agency’s institutional racism.
Vilsack presided over the USDA during the Obama administration. An investigation by the nonprofit news outlet The Counter found that the department foreclosed on Black farmers with pending discrimination complaints, used misleading census data to inflate its civil rights record and failed to sufficiently compensate farmers in class action discrimination suits. Many lost their farms as a result.