There was a time when Black farms prospered.
Just two generations out of slavery, by 1910 Black farmers had amassed more than 16 million acres of land and made up about 14 percent of farmers. The fruit of their labors fed much of America.
Now, they have fewer than 4.7 million acres. Black farms in the U.S. plummeted from 925,000 to fewer than 36,000, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest farm census. And only about one in 100 farmers is Black.
They were able to overcome the broken promise of “40 acres and a mule” to the newly freed slaves — a military order, later rescinded. But over the last century, they faced one obstacle after another because of their race.
Farmers needed loans to expand, to buy seed, to bridge the time between harvests. But lenders — chief among them, the USDA — often refused to give them money, and often rushed to foreclose. Suppliers and customers undercut them. Laws of inheritance led to the breakup of homesteads.
Now the government wants to make amends by providing billions of dollars in debt forgiveness for farmers of color as part of the pandemic relief package. But a judge has put the money on hold in the face of lawsuits filed by white farmers claiming that the program is unfair — reverse discrimination.Black Farmers awaiting billions in promised debt relief, AP