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Last updated 12:05AM ET
March 6, 2021
Study Criticizes Minority Aid in US Farm Policy
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - Minority farmers get few benefits from U.S. farm policy, which favors large producers and landowners, according to a recent study.

Just 18 percent of black farmers received government payments in 2002 compared with 34 percent of white farmers, according to the study, done by the anti-poverty advocacy group Oxfam America and based on research from Tuskegee University and the University of Minnesota. The average payment for black farmers was $3,460 versus $9,300 for whites, the study said.

Overall, although 5 percent of the nation's farmers are minorities, they get just 1 percent of federal commodity payments.

At a news conference on Capitol Hill, Oxfam America called on Congress to change course with the new farm bill slated for passage later this year, highlighting the stories of several minority farmers from across the country.

The farmers said inequities have developed for various reasons, including discrimination at local USDA offices and a mountain of complicated paperwork.

In many cases, poor minorities living in rural areas don't even know they are eligible for government programs.

Also, federal policy -- created decades ago to ensure a stable domestic food supply -- primarily encourages commodity crops such as corn, wheat and cotton, and is designed to serve large producers. Minorities, they said, have traditionally had smaller farms and grown vegetables or raised livestock.

Commodity programs are fully supported, but small farmers aren't getting anything," said Don Bustos, whose Hispanic and American Indian ancestors have operated a farm for centuries in northern New Mexico. We're getting chump change."

I don't want to grow yellow corn for ethanol," added Victor Almazan, a California vegetable farmer. I want to grow sweet corn on the cob."

Ben Burkett, a fourth generation black farmer from Petal, Miss., said the policy is steadily eroding the ranks of minority farmers.

The House began marking up farm legislation this week to replace the five-year law, which expires this year.

The bill has not yet begun moving in the Senate.

We cannot stand silently by while these kinds of inequities exist," said Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J.
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