Joe Biden has a plan to support, grow Black farmers and rural communities

OPINION: As president, Joe Biden will put in place a plan to help strengthen existing Black farmers and encourage a new generation of Black innovators in agriculture

(Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

The number of Black farmers in the United States has fallen precipitously in the last 100 years. At the peak of Black farm ownership in 1920, nearly 1 million Black Americans farmed almost 15 million acres. Today, there are fewer than 50,000 Black farmers in the United States. That decline is marked in the three states we represent. There are currently around 2,900 Black-owned farms in Georgia, and approximately that number combined in Florida and North Carolina.

The reasons for this decline are well-documented. Black farmers have faced overt racism and ingrained discrimination at the local, state and federal levels that have depressed their ability to purchase land, take part in farm support programs, and recover from disaster. That legacy is reflected in the lingering struggles of Black farmers across the South.

Read More: Biden reveals campaign set fundraising record after VP announcement

As president, Joe Biden will put in place a comprehensive plan to help reverse that tide, strengthen existing Black farmers, and encourage a new generation of Black innovators in agriculture.

Like all farmers, Black farmers want the ability to build a successful operation and pass it onto the next generation, but that can’t happen without land. Without credit, it’s almost impossible to buy farmland, and without land ownership, Black farmers can’t access the bulk of federal programs designed for landowners. Biden has a plan to expand access to credit and technical assistance for Black farmers, as well as support land trusts, cooperatives, and farm credit systems built from the ground up with equity for Black farmers.

African-American farmer standing in cart filled with cotton drawn by mules, Louisiana. (Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images)

While land is so critical to Black farmers, a significant percentage of it lacks strong documentation. An estimated 40 percent of Black-owned land in the U.S. is heirs’ property, which is land passed down without a formal will or title. Biden’s plan for heirs’ property will ensure that Black farmers can keep land within their families, as well as prove ownership in a way that opens the door to federal farm programs.

Former vice president Biden will help young Black farmers find, purchase, and succeed on their own land. His plan will also develop connections between local Black farmers and aspiring Black food startups and restaurateurs to support and grow local food systems, like farmers’ markets. Biden’s plan will also work to connect unused farmland with young Black farmers to support and expand locally-grown foods.

As president, Biden will immediately begin to rebuild from President Donald Trump’s disastrous trade war that has destroyed demand for the products Black farmers grow. His plan for antitrust enforcement means he will stand up to the tide of consolidation in agribusiness that has forced so many Black farmers into substandard contracts because they have no other option.

Joe is aware that federal farm programs do not reflect the challenges that Black farmers face, simply because there aren’t enough Black farmers who are present at the decision table. Biden is committed to increasing the number of Black people who serve in leadership roles with the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington D.C., and more importantly at the local level, where so many decisions are made that impact individual farms.

Black Farmer

As president, Joe will demand transparency in all USDA operations, with a focus on how each USDA program can work better for Black farmers. Former vice president Biden has immediate plans to address the significant backlog of civil rights complaints at USDA, along with streamlining the process for future complaints.

Directly tied to Biden’s plan for Black farmers are his plans to boost funding in agricultural research by investing $10 billion in new research incubators and $20 billion in research labs and digital infrastructure at historically Black colleges and universities. As HBCU alum, we believe an investment of this magnitude is a powerful statement on the commitment Biden has to the future of young Black leaders.

Read More: Joe Biden introduces VP pick Kamala Harris at 1st campaign event

Biden has a broad range of plans that will help rural communities of color succeed as well. His public option for healthcare means farm families don’t have to juggle off-farm jobs to stay covered. Critical infrastructure upgrades will allow for safer roads and bridges for produce trucks, and better access to high-speed internet for farmers to take full advantage of new agricultural technologies. Most importantly, his investments in rural schools mean our children can have the same tools and opportunities for success as children in the urban areas.

Biden will do the most for Black farmers and for rural Black communities, and we’re proud to support him as our next President of the United States.

Sanford Bishop represents the 2ndCongressional District of Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he Chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies.

David Scott represents the 13thCongressional District of Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he Chairs the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit, and serves on the House Financial Services Committee.

Dr. Alma Adams represents North Carolina’s 12thCongressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, and serves as Vice-Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture. She also Chairs the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Workforce Protections and serves on the House Financial Services Committee.

Al Lawson, Jr. represents Florida’s 5thCongressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he serves on the House Committees on Agriculture and Financial Services.​

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s new podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!