In agriculture, the late Farm Journal economist John Marten liked to say that we count the number of acres.

Rightly or wrongly, acres – and the wealth they represent – have always been a measure of personal and professional success. The reverse is also true; the lack or loss of acres usually involves some kind of failure.

This critical move is at the center of the US Department of Agriculture’s latest effort to address its well-documented, “broad” and “systematic” discrimination against “minority farmers” through Section 1005 of the US bailout. recently enacted $ 1.9 trillion, commonly referred to as the COVID 2021 Relief Package.

In the new legislation, Congress has set aside up to $ 4 billion to deal with the devastating impact of the USDA’s failure to fully implement and fairly administer color blind government loan programs. This failure is, as usual, in the numbers.

According to the USDA, 949,889 black farmers farmed 41.4 million acres in 1920. Today, only 48,697, or just 1.4% of America’s 3.4 million farmers, own or lease 4.7 million acres, 88% less than a century earlier.

Whatever the measure – acres, farmers, percentages – it’s virtual erasure.

There are many reasons for the steep decline – the industrialization of the US economy, internal migration, the rise of new agricultural technologies – but one compelling reason that the USDA itself recognizes is its widespread discrimination in programming. agricultural loan. This open action helped fuel an exodus of black and socially disadvantaged farmers from American agriculture.

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