A study commissioned by McKinsey & Company has highlighted the barriers that exist for Black Americans in the agriculture industry.
At a surface level, the number of Black farm operators has dropped by nearly 95% over the last century. As a result, only 1.4% of farmer identify as Black today. For the Black farmers that remain, economic barriers continue to prevent them from succeeding. On average, total sales for non-Black led farms are $150,000 higher than those of Black-led farms. In addition, the average net income of non-Black led farms is $156,500 higher than that of Black-led farms.
The economic disparities that exist in the agriculture industry extend into the American economy. Researchers found that agriculture production contributes about 5% of GDP and 10% of employment. Furthermore, the median household income of the average Black household is $45,438 while the median income for farmers is nearly $60,000. Also, the study found that the median net worth of Black households is $24,000 while the median net worth for farming households is above $1 million.
Several factors have contributed to the decline of Black Americans in the agriculture industry. At the federal level, several policies have prevented Black farmers from purchasing land. For example, the Homestead Act of 1862 and the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 were passed prior to the Fourteenth Amendment that recognized formerly enslaved people as American citizens. As a result, lack of legal protections have made it more difficult to transfer land from one generation to the next. Not to mention, discriminatory lending practices have made it more difficult for Black entrepreneurs to gain the capital needed to own farms. Together, it comes as no surprise that there is a lack of Black farmers across the country.
If these disparities were addressed, researchers believe it would provide a $5 billion economic boom for society at large. How can this be achieved? According to the study, the following actions can be taken to support Black farmers:
- Increase capital and market access for Black farmers
- Provide estate and planing support for Black farmers
- Launch targeted agronomic training programs
- Invest in broadband infrastructure along the Black Belt