On December 1, United States Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) released a landmark new bill to support existing and aspiring Black farmers. The 78-page bill would provide increased resources for all farmers, but particularly for Black farmers, through increased land access, education, and funding for existing USDA programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program. It would also seek to remediate historic and ongoing discrimination at the Department of Agriculture by reforming the USDA Office of Civil Rights and creating an independent oversight board to serve as a watchdog for complaints against the department.
The most significant and perhaps most controversial portion of this legislation would create an Equitable Land Access Service at the USDA, which would provide land grants of up to 160 acres to current and prospective Black farmers. This provision seeks to address the displacement of Black Americans from agricultural land that occurred particularly during the latter half of the 20th century.
A synopsis of the bill released by Senator Booker outlines the following goals for the bill:
- End Discrimination within USDA
- Protect Remaining Black Farmers from Land Loss
- Restore the Land Base Lost by Black Farmers
- Create a Farm Conservation Corps
- Empower HBCUs and Advocates for Black Farmers
- Assist All Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers
- Enact System Reforms to Help All Farmers and Ranchers
While there are no plans to move the bill forward before the new Congress in January, influential legislators, including incoming House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott, have expressed support.
To provide feedback to CCOF about this bill or other legislation, contact firstname.lastname@example.org