Black farmers lost $326 billion worth of land in 20th century, study finds

"It speaks to the intergenerational wealth gap that opened up in part due to this type of land loss," says lead author Dr. Dania Francis.

A new study has found that Black farmers have lost more than $326 billion in acreage during the 20th century.

According to Reuters, the research was conducted by the University of Massachusetts-Boston and published on Sunday in the American Economic Association’s Papers and Proceedings journal. Dr. Dania Francis, the lead author of the study, told Reuters, “Wealth and land is one way in this country that you’re able to grow opportunity for your family.”

Shara LaFave adjusts her pigs’ waterer at her farm, Agape Organic Farm, last October in Dansville, Michigan. (Photo: Nick King/Lansing State Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK)

That opportunity has clearly been lost by many Black farmers.

“When huge groups of African Americans were denied that opportunity, it speaks to the intergenerational wealth gap that opened up in part due to this type of land loss,” Francis added. The study found that much of the land loss was due to discriminatory lending practices by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and forced land sales.

The data was calculated by compounding the value of declining acreage among Black farmers owned between 1920 and 1997.

According to Reuters, experts claim that 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 — and the $326 billion in losses is a conservative estimate.

As previously reported by theGrio, 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.

A report in March from theGrio’s April Ryan notes that the USDA is responding well to Biden’s executive order to form a 15-member independent equity commission intended to fix discrimination in its ranks, particularly aimed at Black farmers and rural landowners.

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