Keep It Rural
By Bryce Oates – Tuesday, May 25, 2021
Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Hispanic Farmers Get (Some) Debt Relief.
(Some) Conservative White Farmers Get Mad.
Being on the “rural people have gotten ripped off and not-treated-fairly” end of the reporting/writing/political spectrum for 25+ years now, one of the ever-present issues on the table has been the loss of land by Black, Latinx/Hispanic and Indigenous people. From the clearly documented discrimination proven by the Pigford V. Glickman Settlements related to Black farmers, to the Keepseagle V. Vilsack settlement for Native American farmers, there has been a consistent pattern of discrimination against nonwhite farmers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
There is a pretty clear differentiation, and reaction, to the policy action of debt cancelation for farmers who have been discriminated against.
First, let’s take a look at the New York Times:
- ‘You Can Feel the Tension’: A Windfall for Minority Farmers Divides Rural America—A $4 billion federal fund meant to confront how racial injustice has shaped American farming has angered white farmers who say they are being unfairly excluded.
And next, let’s take a gander at the Wisconsin family farm leaders who reached out to the Daily Yonder to offer their own input:
- Billions for Farmers of Color Isn’t Racist – It’s Smart and Long Overdue—Farmers of color – particularly African American producers – have suffered from the decimation of rural America and decades of systemic racism.
On the one hand, you have a NYT reporter, Jack Healy, who I completely respect and appreciate. Jack does listen about rural people and economics and politics. But he frames the story as a “windfall” for historically discriminated-against people, in this case a northeast Missouri Black farmer just getting up and running. On the other hand, you’ve got white farmers from Wisconsin in the Daily Yonder supporting the Black Farmer debt cancellation.
Now, when it comes to evaluating arguments, I figure a person just has to evaluate things. Black and Brown farmers who have a clear record of discrimination against them, unlike white farmers, do deserve some kind of response. I clearly understand not everyone agrees with this, but still, when the agricultural wealth, and land ownership, and crop insurance, and farm subsidy game adds up, who are the winners? Not the Black and Brown and Native farmers.
We all know it’s the white people who have colonized and settled and owned and grown their ownership over most of the land. Agriculture, just like mining and other extractive industry economies, ends up concentrating wealth and power.
It’s one reason that white farmers, too, have complaints about corporate monopolies. Just last week, even the most conservative of beef industry groups started complaining about the concentration of wealth and power in the beef markets.
Truly, I could care less when some rich white farmers blow smoke about “reverse racism.” What does that mean, really? The richest white farmers are some of the wealthiest people in rural America. They own thousands of acres (unlike the Black and Brown people they seem to be complaining about). They have crop insurance, subsidies, borrowing power through their wealth, easy access to USDA farm program offices and more. I’m not hating on them for this. I’m just saying it’s very obvious they have advantages.
What does get upsetting is when the white farmers who receive hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in government support start whining about “socially disadvantaged farmers” getting a little support. The Black farmer in the New York Times story receiving $200,000 in debt relief gets criticized by an incredibly wealthy white farmer who has thousands of acres and pulls out the “reverse racism” line.
It’s gross. It’s bad reporting. It’s not fair. So that makes me angry, Keep It Rural readers, because I don’t care for rich people’s continued doubling down on victimhood these days. I’m ready to move on and let the federal government enact some justice for the people who’ve been screwed over by the wealthy in the last few generations.
At the very least, these people deserve some support, and debt forgiveness is a good place for the federal government to start.
Rural Reading List
In addition to the discrimination “controversy” involving Black and other socially disadvantaged and other BIPOC farmers, we’ve got some Daily Yonder Covid-19 anniversary reports along with other stories:
Grant County, Washington, was one of the first places in rural America to encounter the novel coronavirus. One year later, this Yonder story looks at how Covid spread/didn’t spread in the Pacific Northwest.
And another Yonder story about how one county in the north woods of Minnesota combatted Covid-19 successfully.
This Stateline story explains how states working hard to cancel weekly benefits that are intended to “get people back to work” are actually hurting rural people and economies.
The Biden USDA isn’t coming for your cheeseburgers, but this Politico story details some ways that voluntary conservation might not be enough.
One More Thing: A Rural Vaccine Map
I know that Covid-19 vaccinations are not always-accessible, nor are they always-accepted in your rural town. That said, the Daily Yonder has some good data and info about how and where vaccines are happening.
This map and data-driven site has the digits on your rural (or urban) community regarding how folks are doing in the race to vaccinate against Covid-19.
In general, it appears that vaccinations are strongest in the rural counties up North, Northeast and where Native Americans and Tribal Communities reside. The South and Southeast show much lower rates.
Not sure if we need to spend more $$ or shame people to get everyone vaccinated, but let’s go Rural America. Let’s get Vaxxed.
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