Cory Booker Wants to Empower a New Generation of Black Farmers

Booker reintroduced the Justice for Black Farmers Act, which aims to protect current Black farmers and pave the way for future Black growers.

In 1920, nearly 1 million Black farmers existed in the U.S., making up about 14% of the national farming community. Today, less than 2% remain. But Sen. Cory Booker from New Jersey hopes to change all that with the Black Farmers Act of 2023

The legislation, a press release explained, will tackle discriminatory practices within the USDA while aiming to protect current Black farmers and pave the way for future Black growers. 

The act was first introduced in 2020 by Booker and later introduced again in 2021. Unfortunately, both bills did not get implemented. The legislation is likely to become a part of the 2023 Farm Bill, according to TriplePundit, which is up for negotiation this year. (The Farm Bill is a patchwork of policies that impacts all aspects of the food that lands on our plates. The Black Farmers Act of 2023 will likely represent a massive piece of the racial equity work that desperately needs addressing.)

Senator Cory Booker

Ting Shen / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Booker shared in a press release, “There is a direct connection between discriminatory USDA policies and the enormous land loss we have seen among Black farmers over the past century.” To combat this, The Black Farmers Act of 2023 contains seven priorities: end discrimination in the USDA, a federal department that has been sued for racial discrimination, predatory lending, and other unfair practices; protect Black farmers from land loss; restore land base lost by Black farmers; create a Farm Conservation Corps; empower nonprofits who serve Black farmers; assist all socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers; and enact widespread system reform. 

The Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project, Inc (OBHRPI) shared with Food & Wine, it endorsed
the Black Farmers Act of 2021, as it is entirely too familiar with racist actions toward Black farmers. 

“As an advocate for Black farms and through all of the discrimination and things that have happened to Black farmers, this was what I thought was going to be an equitable way to help farmers sustain equity and sustainability on their farms, as well as a pathway to the future for them in farming,” Willard Tillman, executive director at OBHRPI, said. 

While there is still a long road ahead for achieving justice for Black farmers, the committee supporting the legislation remains hopeful. Senator Booker will be joined by lawmakers Kirsten Gillibrand, Tina Smith, Reverend Raphael Warnock, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Richard Blumenthal on the act. Senator Booker added,  “I am proud to reintroduce this landmark legislation alongside my colleagues as we work to right these wrongs and empower a new generation of Black farmers.”

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