Farmers, Fairness & the Farm Bill

where issues of producers, policy and equity converge

A Collaborative Research Project with Rural Coalition, National Family Farm Coalition & American University's School of International Service (Washington, DC)

The United States Farm Bill: Support for Producer Participation in Direct Marketing Campaigns An Analysis of Fund Allocation and Program Support (March 2016)

Julie Burton and Erin Raser

In the media and in communities throughout the country the discourse surrounding farmers markets is generally from a consumer standpoint- rarely do we hear of the importance of these direct marketing outlets from the perspective of the farmer or rancher. Through this report we unpack the importance of the U.S. Farm Bill for producers, highlight the successes of the recent Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) and bring to light consumer advocacy for programs that support small and medium sized producers. Additionally, we expose the difficulties of the grant application process for farmers seeking assistance for increased access to direct marketing outlets. In particular we advocate for support for “socially disadvantaged” farmers who have faced systemic social and political discrimination and who continue to face this discrimination in regards to entry into these direct marketing outlets.

Click here for the full report (.pdf)

The Negative Effects of the Mining Industry on Mount Taylor New Mexico (April 2016)

Jessica Ordóñez Pérez

Since the colonial epoch, indigenous communities throughout the Americas have seen their populations be massively decimated, while their territories have vanished right in front of their eyes. Victims of what is barely ever acknowledged to be one the most relentless genocides in the history of humanity, native communities on the Western Hemisphere have gone from reigning over the lands of this continent, to being treated as mere intruders. Located in the southwestern region of the San Mateo Mountains, approximately 50 miles from Acoma Sky City in New Mexico, Mount Taylor, also known by the Navajos as Tsoodzil, is an almost 12,000 feet elevation that has served as a sacred pilgrimage site for Native American tribes as the Navajo Nation, the Hopi, the Zuni, and the Laguna and Acoma Pueblos. With the characteristic of being visible from up to 100 miles away, Mount Taylor also happens to be sitting on one of the most valuable uranium reserves in the United States, the Grants Uranium Belt. In the next section we will discuss the different actors who have a voice in the conflict, the racial aspects surrounding it, and the struggle of the Native American communities to protect their sacred lands, their environment and their health.

Click here for the full report (.pdf)

Contemporary Analyses of Racial Discrimination against Rural Farmers by the USDA (APRIL 2016)

Amber Orozco and Alexandria Ward

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been under legal scrutiny for historical racial discrimination. Accusations of discrimination manifested in major civil rights lawsuits and settlements, including: Pigford vs. Glickman, which represented African-American growers. Legal claims made by farmers and academic research have pointed to institutional racism in the USDA. Evidence of this discrimination can be seen in the USDA’s bureaucratic system, including the County Committees (COC) who work with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) of the USDA. Our research sought to understand whether farmers’ experiences with the COCs and of racial discrimination had changed since the Pigford I and II cases.

Our work was guided by the following questions, stemming from ongoing conversations with RC and NFFC members: What were the experiences of farmers of color with the USDA prior to and post- Pigford lawsuit cases? Are the County Committees of the USDA demographically reflective of the farmers and ranchers they represent? To investigate our questions and concerns, we had two methodological approaches. First, we conducted seven semi-structured interviews with farmers of color, activists, and lawyers. In order to provide additional perspectives to our project, we also created a map showing the racial distribution of African-American and White COC nominees during the 2013 Election period. This data set was provided by the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). One of the results of the Pigford v. Glickman case was a discussion of the racial representation of small and medium farmers in the County Committees, who historically had control of the implementation of FSA programs at the local level. Although the USDA has made several changes on the County Committee election process towards equitable demographic representation since the 2002 Farm Bill, this research highlights the contemporary geographic politics of representation and power at the local governmental level.  Overall, we hope to bring additional insights on the barriers of racial representation in our domestic agri-food system and contribute to racial equity conversations in national agricultural policies.

Click here to see the full report (.pdf)

USDA County Snapshots database

USDA County Snapshots Database is primarily viewed as a means for compiling and showcasing the county-level agricultural data on race, gender, and ethnicity in Alabama, California, South Carolina and Massachusetts. This database draws first from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (“NASS”) “Quick Stats” database, which contains some 33 million data points collected in the quinquennial Census of Agriculture, last collected in 2012. The primary indicators incorporated in this database convey information on farm operatorship, farm size, market value of products sold, and government payments for various programs.

A second set of supplementary indicators comes from the “County-level Data Sets” compiled by USDA’s Economic Research Service (“ERS”). These figures provide county information on population, unemployment and poverty, household incomes, and educational breakdown. They offer a more generalized view of each county’s economic state in which to contextualize the NASS demographic data.

The database provides organized data that can be easily visualized and compared on state and county levels, thus increasing the visibility of Rural Coalition and National Family Farm Coalition to its constituents, donors, and politicians. In addition, the database allows other researchers to measure the impact of Farm Bill provisions, visualize agriculture at the county level, as well as realize the gaps in the current surveys administered by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Click here to download the USDA County Snapshots Database (.xlsx)

Map by Kiersten Rooke

Map by Kiersten Rooke

For much of its history, the Department of Agriculture has struggled to deliver the same benefits and services to farmers from minority racial and ethnic groups as it does to white farmers. These growers have come up against linguistic, technical, and cultural barriers, as well as outright prejudice, as they have tried to apply for loans and other federal programs. As a result, small- and medium-scale minority farmers have faced the same economic and environmental pressures as their white counterparts, but often without the same lifeline of federal support. The 2501 Program for Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers was created to bridge the gap between minority farmers and the USDA. However, the program has been subject to budget cuts and erratic funding. It will require stronger, more consistent support in order to overcome historic injustices and fully achieve its goals.

This project maps where these grants have been awarded in relation to key demographic and economic data, to show where these programs have been successful and where there are still gaps and opportunities for growth. The maps tell visual, data-driven stories to use in the ongoing advocacy for the improvement and expansion of these programs.

The Maps (.pdf): 2501 - All Grantees by Type / 2501 - Number of Grants per Grantee (2000-2014) /2501 - Grants and All Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers / 2501 - Grants and All Black Farmers / 2501 - Grants and the Percentage of Black Farmers by County / 2501 - Grants and All Hispanic Farmers / 2501 - Grants and the percentage of Hispanic Farmers per County /2501 - Grants and All Native American Farmers / 2501 - Grants and the Percentage of Native American Farmers per County / 2501 - Grants and All Asian Farmers / 2501 - Grants and the Percentage of Asian Farmers per County / 2501 - Grants and All Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Farmers / 2501 - Grants and the Percentage of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Farmers per County / 2501 - Grants and All Multi-Race Farmers / 2501 - Grants and the Percentage of Multi-Race Farmers per County / 2501 - Grants and All Female Farmers /2501 - Grants and the Percentage of Female Farmers per County / 2501 - Grants and All White Farmers / 2501 - Grants and All Small Family Farms / 2501 - Grants and All Limited-Resource Farmers / 2501 - Grants and the Percentage of People Below the Poverty Line per County / 2501 - Grants and Participating StrikeForce Counties / BFRDP - Number of Grants per Grantee (2009-2015) / BRFDP - Grants and All Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers

Acknowledgements: Federation of Southern Cooperatives and Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, (especially John Zippert, Ben Burkett and Daniel Teague), Indian Springs Cooperative (especially Melvin Jones), Gloria Sturdevant of Southern Rural Black Women's Initiative for Economic and Social Justice, John Green of the Center for Population Studies at the University of Mississippi, Mark Schultz of the Land Stewardship Project, and American University's Geospatial Research Lab (especially Meagan Snow)


Cameron Harsh

Women have continuously played a crucial role in agricultural development in the United States, working alongside men to produce the country's food supply.  However,  "The transition from the iconic small-scale, family farm to the capital-intensive industrial farming of today included an under-emphasized, but re-entrenched gendering of the farm system and greatly altered the lives and perception of agricultural women...Men in production and women in reproduction was the best path to abundance and progress" (p. 2).  Since this transition, female farmers have continued to produce our food while struggling against gender-based discrimination in agricultural policies and programs.

 Click here to read the full report (.pdf)


Cameron Harsh

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

A brief investigation into representations of farmers and farming in a variety of media demonstrates a clear emphasis on a narrow image of what is actually a diverse field.  Advertising and other media in the United States "present a strong message that White males are the only viable farmers and render the 7% of minority farmers and nearly 30% of female farmers invisible, both to the American public and policymakers at all levels of governance" (p. 6).  Also strongly conveyed in these messages is an overwhelming emphasis on power and a dominance over nature with industrial technologies.

Click here to read the full report (.pdf)

The Hispanic and Women Farmers and Ranchers USDA Claims Process (December 2015)

Claire Karlsson

The results of USDA's Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers’ claims process has spurred substantial questions about the continued challenges that persist in addressing past and ongoing discrimination and inequities in farm ownership among socially disadvantaged producers. The claims program deserves further attention as it highlights the power of inclusive coalition-building among community-based organizations to represent socially marginalized agriculture groups in policy change and the larger food justice movement.

Click here to read the full report (.pdf)

Community partnered action research on and for U.S. agricultural policy