Champion Farmer Equity & Justice for Black Farmers


The U.S. is built on a long history of disenfranchisement and land theft, which continues to have significant repercussions today. The legalized enslavement of Black people built the U.S. economy,[1] and yet, with few exceptions, formerly enslaved people and their descendants have seen little of the country’s wealth. In fact, gains in land ownership by Black Southerners following the Civil War were erased over the following century, mostly through threats, violence, and systemic discrimination, including by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) itself.[2] In 1910, Black farmers accounted for 20 percent of farmers[3]; by 2017, that number had dropped to 1.3 percent.[4] Black land ownership has plummeted by 98 percent in the last century, with most of the loss occurring not in the late 1800s, but just since the 1950s.

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State Policy Priorities

  • The Partition of Heirs Property Act can be an important protection for Black landowners against a forced or predatory sale.
  • Farmer equity legislation.
  • Black farmer and Black land ownership restoration.

State Examples

  • Nineteen states have enacted the Partition of Heirs Property Act. Kentucky (2021 KY SB 43) is one of several other states considering passage.
  • North Carolina (2021 NC SB 694) and South Carolina (2021 SC HB 3543) lawmakers have proposed legislation to restore agricultural land to Black farmers.
  • Washington (2021 WA HB 1395) passed a law directing state agencies to ensure inclusion of historically underrepresented and socially disadvantaged farmers in programming.
  • California (2019 CA AB 986) created a program to provide grants to socially disadvantaged farmers, including Native tribes, to acquire agricultural land.
  • Maine passed a law (2021 ME HP 5) to ensure the inclusion of racial impact statements in the legislative process.
  • Illinois (2021 IL HB 3089) lawmakers are considering a proposal to require that 20 percent of food purchased by state agencies be produced by socially disadvantaged farmers.


Inspired? Ready to dig in on these issues with your rural neighbors? Our practical communications toolkits will help you connect with new communities through common values. The toolkits provide examples on narrative framing, press release templates, sample talking points, and more. 

Click here for the communications toolkit on Growing Equitable Food Systems.

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