Reality Check | ecoWURD | radio
Lloyd Wright, former Director of the Office of Civil Rights at the US Dept of Agriculture (retired), member of the Alcorn University Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center in Mississippi joined ecoWURD on Reality Check with Charles Ellison to talk about the plight of Black farmers and recent attempts by both the Biden administration and Congress to provide long awaited relief for them. The recently passed American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion pandemic emergency relief package, also included $5 billion worth of federal loan relief to Black farmers in the United States.
Wright contends that it’s not enough. “No, it’s not adequate,” Wright, also a farmer, told ecoWURD. “It’s a significant start, the biggest since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But, it’s not enough, it will only eliminate the USDA debt. We’ll need a lot more to correct the wrongs.” Wright made a distinction between federal USDA debt and private bank debt. If Black farmers don’t receive immediate assistance for private loans, many more could find themselves out of business and foreclosed on.
“We need to look at all the money provided to White farmers to keep them afloat while Black farmers went out of business. The federal farmer subsidies base-acreage formula is designed to lock Black farmers out. There is so much to be done just to balance federal payments designed by local county committees – and 95 percent of county committeemen are White men. We need to eliminate that system.”
According to a 2019 report on Black farmers by the Center for American Progress: “According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, 1.6 percent of farmers are Black or African American, up from less than 1 percent in 1997. Moreover, Black farms grew from their low of 2,310,349 acres in 1992 to more than 3,600,000 acres in 2012. While the United States has made gains in the battle for equal opportunity for Black agricultural communities, there is still more work to do.”