USDA Discrimination against African American Farmers


By United States Department of Agriculture - (15 December 2020), Public Domain,


USDA Discrimination against African American Farmers


Pete Daniels' 2013 book "Dispossession: discrimination against African American farmers in the age of civil rights. The University of North Carolina Press" shows that the Civil Rights period was the time during which African American farmers lost the greatest amount of land in the United States.

Chapter 1 documents the engineered shift from labor intensive farming to capital intensive chemically assisted farming, coupled with outright discrimination against African-American farmers, tenant farmers and sharecroppers. It discusses how favoring the agricultural elite and agri-business interests, US Government agricultural and tax policy, together with labor saving science and technology promulgated by land grant universities and experimentaion stations, conspired to push small farmers, tenants and sharecroppers out of farming and benefit large landowners, agribusiness and non farmers who got into farming to make a loss to write off against non farming income. While both white and African-American small farmers and sharecroppers were affected, African Americans were disproportionately affected by these policies, leaving farming and losing land at a significantly higher rate than white small farmers and sharecroppers.

Chapter 2 describes the Civil War Era investigation into discrimination in local USDA programs, uncovering an infrastructure of corruption pitted against poor farmers black and white: favoritism in acreage allotments, lying to and withholding information from farmers and from Negro Extension Services workers about support programs, committee elections etc., discrimination in hiring and promotion, unequal pay, training and working conditions, and discriminatory denials of federal funding. It also documents outright theft from black farmers - see the case of Cozy Ellison. Committee positions, loans, and program participation went to wealthy white elite farm families, while African-American and poor white farmers were generally ignored "but African American farmers," the investigation found, were segregated and "consistently outside the decision-making process," because of serious and pervasive discrimination throughout state and county USDA agencies which were often misreported to or tacitly supported by federal officials in Washington, which in any event had disowned responsibility for the failures at the state and county level.

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