The country’s 45,000 Black farmers account for just 1.3% of the 3.4 million U.S. farmers overall. It’s a dramatic drop from the 1 million Black farmers who existed a century ago. During that period, systemic racism and a punishing cycle of debt led to Black farmers also losing 90% of their land. The latest farm census found that the average farm run by an African American is roughly a quarter of the size of the national average for farms—about 100 acres versus some 440 acres.
But provisions included in the American Rescue Plan aim to help make up for some of the disparities Black farmers have faced for decades. Of the $10.4 billion set aside in the bill to support agriculture, about $5 billion of it will be targeted at farmers of color.
Vilsack said the money was intended to help address the many longterm hardships socially disadvantaged farmers have dealt with along with the inequities in how the Trump administration distributed COVID-19 relief.
“One, you’ve got this systemic racism that basically put these people behind and they’ve never caught up. This is beginning of addressing that issue,” he said. “And second is the gap in the way the COVID relief was distributed.”