Saturday, July 14, 2007

Blacks and The Farm Bill

The Farm Bill Extension Act of 2007 (H.R. 2419) is vitally important to the African American community. But are Blacks aware of the importance of this legislation? Should Blacks even care about farm issues? Blacks bolted from the fields as soon as possible in the 40s, 50s and 60s to escape a backwards, racist agricultural system. Tenant farming, so called "sharecropping," simply did not appeal to Blacks. And rightfully so, it was a brutal variation on the 'master-slave' model of Southern agriculture. Fast forward to the 21st Century. Not only did Blacks not profit from hundreds of years of free farm labor, now African Amricans get little of the billions of dollars in farm supports delivered by The Farm Bill.

WARNING: We have a 'no whining' policy at AAEA and this is getting awefully close.

Between the Black flight from the farm and the constraints to support from The Farm Bill, it is not surprising that Blacks are largely not involved in farming anymore, except at the very samll family farming level. The loss of black farm land is also well documented. So what does this mean for the African American community? It means that Blacks do not own the keys to food production, just as Blacks own no part of the energy production assets in the USA. Somebody should be feeling vulnerable.

AAEA is particularly interested in the energy programs supported by The Farm Bill. We are promoting aggressive support for cellulosic ethanol production instead of corn kernel production because the former will not increase food prices. Cellulosic ethanol is also addressed in The Energy Bill (H.R. 6) and calls for 20 billion of the 36 billion gallons of ethanol to be produced from cellulose. We need more support for cellulosic ethanol production and mechanisms to include more minority participation in this development. We are also working to include more support for other alternative energy technologies.

Black universities could be the key to a renaissance in black participation in 21st Century farming. Farming now includes energy, air and global warming issues. Black colleges that receive funds from The Farm Bill are known as 1890s, a short term for the 1890 Second Morrill Act, which allowed federal funds to support agriculture programs at Black colleges. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were also 'land grant' institutions in the first half of the 20th Century. Some 1890 schools include Tuskegee University in Alabama, Florida A&M, South Carolina State Univ, Southern Univ and Prairie View A&M Univ. A&T State University is a land grant college. We need more funding for these schools to support their land grant operations and their agricultural and cooperative extension programs. (The Washington Afro-American, July 14, 2007)

Farm Subsidies Favor Whites (What Else Is New?)

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