‘Justice’ bill would transfer up to 32 million acres to Black farmers

Successful Farming (agriculture.com):

The 32 million acres is nearly seven times the 4.7 million acres now in Black farms.

Black-owned farmland could expand sevenfold under a bill filed by three Democratic senators on Thursday to reverse decades of discriminatory practices by the Agriculture Department, sometimes called “the last plantation.” The Justice for Black Farmers Act would enable Black farmers to acquire up to 160 acres apiece at no charge through a USDA system of land grants.

Under the bill, an Equity Commission would study the legacy of discrimination at the USDA and suggest reforms that could reach the farmer-elected county committees that help guide operations at local USDA offices. An independent board would hear appeals of civil rights complaints decided by USDA officials.

t their peak, in 1920, there were 925,708 Black farmers, accounting for 17%, or about one-sixth, of U.S. farmers. A century later, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, there were 35,470 farms with Black producers — just 1.7% of the U.S. total. The government agreed in the so-called Pigford settlements of 1999 and 2010 to compensate Black farmers who were harmed by discriminatory practices, such as the denial of USDA loans and slow handling of civil rights complaints.

“When it comes to farming and agriculture, we know that there is a direct connection between discriminatory practices within the USDA and the enormous land loss we have seen among Black farmers in the past century,” said Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, the lead sponsor of the bill. He said the bill “would enact reforms within the USDA to finally end discrimination within that agency, protect the remaining Black farmers from losing their land, and provide land grants to create a new generation of Black farmers and begin to restore the land base that has been lost by Black farmers due to outrageous discrimination over past decades.”

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