By Jamila Bey
A new study has found that Black farmers have lost more than $326 billion in land value during the 20th century. That figure, according to researchers, is a deeply conservative estimate of how much in real dollars racist practices costs Black American farmers since 1920.
Dr. Dania Francis was the lead author of the study conducted by the University of Massachusetts-Boston and published in the American Economic Association’s Papers and Proceedings journal. Her research analyzed U.S. Department of Agriculture census data to find that between 1922 to 1997, Black farmers in 17 states saw their land ownership decimated dure to state-sanctioned violence and intimidation.
Francis is quoted by Bloomberg as saying the present value of the land loss is as much as the market value of “Target Corp., Starbucks Corp. and Ford Motor Co. combined as of January 2022.” Black farmers owned more than 16 million acres of farmland in 1910, but in 2017, that total had dwindled to just 4.7 million acres — about 0.5% of all U.S. farmland.
Francis stressed the $326 billion is a conservative estimate because the study didn’t take into account the land Black households could have reinvested in business and education.
President Joe Biden issued an executive order to the USDA to form a 15-member independent equity commission intended to fix discrimination in its policies and practices aimed at Black farmers.
President Joe Biden’s administration planned to award billions to Black farmers under the Build Back Better plan. Much of those funds have been tied up as white farmers filed lawsuits labeling the earmarking of funds specific to Black farmers as discrimination.
The suit has tied up $4 billion in funds dedicated to helping Black farmers, and it is currently being defended in court by the administration.
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