A new study reveals how Black farmers systemically had land stolen from them in the 20th century.
According to Reuters, due to discriminatory practices from U.S. Department of Agriculture, loss of farmlands is but one contributor to the racial wealth gap in America. The issues has also marred the relationship between the USDA and minority farmers.
Dr. Dania Francis, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and lead author of the new study, said in a statement, "Wealth and land is one way in this country that you're able to grow opportunity for your family. 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.”
Generations of racial discrimination have caused Black farmers to be far more likely to have more debt, less land and less access to credit. Discriminatory USDA lending policies and forced sales of co-owned land called heirs’ property also contributed to the loss, according to the study.
Additionally, using data from the USDA Census of Agriculture, the study calculated the compounded value of declining acreage owned by African Americans between 1920 and 1997 in the 17 states where almost all Black-owned farms were documented.
"This is not just theoretical, but this is empirical," Dr. Darrick Hamilton, economics professor at The New School and another of the study's authors, said. "These are real losses that occurred."
$326 billion is a conservative figure, according to the study’s authors. That’s because it doesn’t account for multiplier effects, like whether Black farmers could have used lost land as collateral to make other investments.
Read more about the study here.