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Who Owns the Land? Current Agricultural Land Ownership by Race/Ethnicity

Ownership and control
of land strongly
affects many aspects
of rural life, especial-
ly in the poorest regions of the
country. Land ownership in minori-
ty communities is particularly
important since it is often one of
the few (and largest) forms of
wealth. Beyond economics, land
ownership contributes substantially
to civic activities and political par-
ticipation. Land is also culturally
significant to minority groups like
American Indians, Hispanics, and
Blacks. Yet some argue that they are
losing ownership and control of
land at much faster rates than
Whites. In recent years, USDA has
been sued for racial discrimination
in Federal farm programs. For these
reasons among others, good
landownership data are essential
for better rural development prac-
tice as well as improved agricultural
In this article, we present the
most recent and thorough national
data on the racial/ethnic dimen-
sions of agricultural land ownership
in the United States, based largely
on USDAs Agricultural Economics
and Land Ownership Survey of
1999 (AELOS). Of all private U.S.
agricultural land, Whites account
for 96 percent of the owners, 97
percent of the value, and 98 per-
cent of the acres. Nonetheless, four
minority groups (Blacks, American
Indians, Asians, and Hispanics) own
over 25 million acres of agricultural
land, with a value of over $44 bil-
lion: Blacks possess 7.8 million
acres ($14.4 billion), American
Indians 3.4 million private acres
($5.3 billion), and Hispanics nearly
13 million acres ($18 billion). The
large acreage and high value have
significant social, economic, cultur-
al, and political consequences for
minority communities in rural
For a century after the end of
slavery, Black farmers tended to be
tenants rather than owners. Since
the early 1970s, activists and schol-
ars have warned that the rural
Black community was in danger of
losing its entire land base. Land
ownership by Black farmers peaked
in 1910 at 16-19 million acres,
according to the Census of
Agriculture. However, the 1997
census reports that Black farmers
owned only 1.5 million acres. This
drastic decline contrasts sharply
with an increase in acres owned by
White farmers. Thus, the most sur-
prising finding in the 1999 AELOS
is that—despite many decades of
land loss—Blacks own 7.8 million
acres (table 1).
This estimate has not been
available to other researchers
because these data appeared only
last year, and previous national
studies have not counted minority
land owners as thoroughly as
AELOS. Analysts instead have used
the much smaller Census of
Agriculture figure (1.5 million
Winter 2002/Volume 17, Issue 4
Who Owns the Land?
Agricultural Land Ownership
by Race/Ethnicity
Of all private U.S. agricultural land, Whites account for 96 percent of
the owners, 97 percent of the value, and 98 percent of the acres.
Nonetheless, four minority groups (Blacks, American Indians, Asians,
and Hispanics) own over 25 million acres of agricultural land, valued
at over $44 billion, which has wide-ranging consequences for the
social, economic, cultural, and political life of minority communities in
rural America. This article presents the most recent national data
available on the racial and ethnic dimensions of agricultural land
ownership in the United States, based largely on USDAs Agricultural
Economics and Land Ownership Survey of 1999.
Jess Gilbert
Spencer D. Wood
Gwen Sharp
Jess Gilbert is professor in the Department of Rural
Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
and Co-Director of the Center for Minority Land and
Community Security; Spencer D. Wood and Gwen
Sharp are graduate students in sociology
at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
For assistance and suggestions, we thank Calvin
Beale, Charles Bernard, David Buland, Jim Burt,
Theresa Carmody, Anne Effland, Bob Hoppe, Lukata
Mjumbe, Jerry Pennick, Ross Racine, Gene ummers,
Frank Tolson, Raymond Winbush, and John Zippert.
The Center for Minority Land and Community
Security, based at Tuskegee University,
supported some of this work.
acres). In another major discrepan-
cy, the Census shows fewer than
19,000 Black farmers while AELOS
counts 68,000 Black agricultural
land owners. These seeming con-
tradictions, however, are due largely
to intentional differences between
the two sources: The Census of
Agriculture studies farmers whereas
the AELOS studies agricultural land
owners (see box, “Many Agricul-
tural Land Owners Are Not
Farmers,” pp. 58-59).
According to the AELOS, only
one-third of Black-owned acres are
operated by the owner (table 2),
with most Blacks renting their land
to others (mainly Whites). In fact,
61 percent of Black owners in 1999
Volume 17, Issue 4/Winter 2002
Table 1
All private agricultural land owners, acres owned, and value of land and buildings, by race and ethnicity, 1999
Minorities own only a small part of the U.S. agricultural land base
Land owners Acres
Average Value
Group Number Percent1(1,000) Percent1acres1($1,000) Percent1
United States 3,412,080 -- 932,495 -- 273 1,283,853,124 --
White 3,218,751 96.2 856,051 98.1 266 1,156,977,076 96.8
Black 68,056 2.0 7,754 0.9 114 14,366,319 1.2
American Indian 23,266 0.7 3,398 0.4 146 5,271,769 0.4
Asian 8,158 0.2 964 0.1 118 6,860,824 0.6
Other 27,290 0.8 4,640 0.5 170 11,753,114 1.0
Hispanic247,223 1.4 12,888 1.4 273 18,209,871 1.4
1Racial percentages are calculated based on the racial totals for all owners and all owner acres (3,345,521 and 872,807,000). The U.S. total is greater
than the sum of the races because it includes corporate and other non-individual owners that do not have racial characteristics, plus some individuals who
did not answer or did not receive a racial identifier. This also applies to average acres per owner.
2Hispanic percentages are calculated based on the U.S. totals for all owners and all owner acres (3,412,080 and 932,495,000).
Source: Table 68,
1999 Agricultural Economics and Land Ownership Survey
Table 2
Owner-operators, non-operator owners, and acres owned, by race and ethnicity, 1999
Most agricultural land owners, other than Blacks, are owner-operators
Owner-operators1Non-operator owners1
Acres Average Acres Average
Group Number Percent2(1,000) Percent2acres2Number Percent2(1,000) Percent2acres2
United States 1,966,715 58 542,890 58 276 1,445,365 42 389,605 42 270
White 1,892,676 59 533,642 62 282 1,326,075 41 322,410 38 243
Black 29,241 43 2,502 32 86 38,815 57 5,252 68 135
American Indian 17,479 75 2,615 77 150 5,787 25 783 23 135
Asian 6,116 75 655 68 107 2,042 25 309 32 151
Other 21,203 78 3,475 75 164 6,087 22 1,165 25 191
Hispanic333,834 72 10,160 79 300 13,389 28 2,728 21 204
1Percentages for owner-operators and non-operator owners are calculated row-wise based on the total number of owners and acres in each racial/
ethnic category.
2Racial percentages are calculated based on the racial totals for all owners and all owner acres (3,345,521 and 872,807,000). The U.S. total is greater
than the sum of the races because it includes corporate and other non-individual owners that do not have racial characteristics, plus some individuals who
did not answer or did not receive a racial identifier. This also applies to average acres per owner.
3Hispanic percentages are calculated based on the U.S. totals for all owners and all owner acres (3,412,080 and 932,495,000).
Source: Table 68,
1999 Agricultural Economics and Land Ownership Survey
were landlords, leasing 4.7 million
acres for over $216 million in rent
(table 3). Of all the racial groups,
Blacks own the smallest average
acreage (114 acres per owner).
Black agricultural land owners
are highly concentrated in the
South, from east Texas through the
Black Belt up into Virginia. Their
land use patterns are similar to
those for the region as a whole:
crops and woodland, with relatively
little land in pasture (table 4).
Blacks’ representation in the
Conservation Reserve Program is
higher than that of other minorities
but lower than Whites’ (table 5).
American Indians
Historically, of course,
American Indians had access to
practically all the land in the pre-
sent-day United States. White set-
tlers and the Federal Government
subsequently dispossessed them
of most of the land. Between the
Allotment Act of 1887 and the
Indian Reorganization Act of 1934,
American Indians lost an additional
90 million acres. Before discussing
current American Indian owner-
ship, it is important to note that
AELOS contains data only on
private Indian land, excluding
reservation land that is held by
the tribe or otherwise administered
communally. Thus, AELOS captures
only a small amount of the total
agricultural land of American
Indians. For instance, the 1997
Census of Agriculture reports that
only 2 million acres are held pri-
vately by American Indians, while
46 million additional acres are on
AELOS reports over 3 million
acres of private agricultural land
held by 23,266 Indian owners, with
an average of 146 acres per owner
(table 1). Unlike Blacks, these
Winter 2002/Volume 17, Issue 4
Table 3
Private agricultural landlords and acres leased to others, by race and ethnicity, 1999
Nearly half of all land owners are landlords (less for most minorities)
Landlords Acres leased
Average Total rent
acres per received
Group Number Percent1(1,000) Percent2landlord3($1,000)
United States 1,638,033 48 394,336 42 241 17,379,889
White 1,505,648 47 321,711 38 214 14,492,197
Black 41,377 61 4,668 60 113 216,262
American Indian 6,487 28 726 21 112 27,384
Asian 2,634 32 378 39 144 42,648
Other 6,584 24 1,476 32 224 91,267
Hispanic 14,616 31 2,997 23 205 156,100
1Landlords as percent of all owners.
2Leased acres as percent of all owned acres.
3U.S. average is higher than race-specific averages because U.S. figures include corporate and other non-individual owners that do not have racial
characteristics, plus some individuals who did not answer or did not receive a racial identifier.
Source: Table 98,
1999 Agricultural Economics and Land Ownership Survey
Photo courtesy USDA/ERS.
Indian land owners tend to be farm
operators and rent their land to
others less often (table 2). Private
Indian agricultural land is worth
over $5 billion, and leased land
earned over $27 million in rent in
1999 (table 3). American Indian
land owners are generally concen-
trated in the West and Southwest.
They tend to specialize in pasture
(49 percent of all acres), with some
land in crops (39 percent) and less
in woodland (8 percent) (table 4).
Pastureland’s prevalence is proba-
bly due to the concentration of
Indian farmers and ranchers in arid
and semi-arid regions, which are
generally more suitable for live-
stock grazing than for growing
crops. Very few Indian owners,
and even fewer of their acres,
are enrolled in the Conservation
Reserve Program, which again
may reflect their concentration in
regions dominated by rangeland
(table 5).
To supplement the AELOS data
on private Indian ownership, we
used an Intertribal Agricultural
Council report based on Bureau
of Indian Affairs data from 1990
(McKean et al.). The BIA counted
over 18 million acres of agricultural
land on reservations, owned by
29,500 individual Indian farmers
or ranchers. Most of these farmers
(63 percent) raised livestock, main-
ly cattle. A more recent report from
USDA says that the BIA “manages
55 million acres in trust for Indian
tribes and individuals”: 2 million
acres of cropland, 36 million in
pasture and range, 11 million in for-
est land, and 6 million other acres
(Vesterby and Krupa, p. 24). As with
Volume 17, Issue 4/Winter 2002
Many Agricultural Land Owners Are Not Farmers
Comparing the AELOS and the Census of Agriculture
The 1999 Agricultural Economics and Land Ownership Survey (AELOS) was a follow-on survey to the 1997 Census of
Agriculture. The sample size included 37,182 farmers and 67,178 private landlords. The response rate was 71 percent
for farmers and 51 percent for landlords. Data for nonresponding landlords was taken from the reports of farmers who
rent from them. It is important to note that the AELOS focuses on agricultural (farm and ranch) land only. For more
information on research methods, see Appendix A of AELOS (USDA, 2001).
There are no ideal data sources on land ownership in the United States-other than in the 3,000-plus county
courthouses throughout the Nation. Every 5 years, the census of agriculture reports on “land in farms,” which accounts
for roughly half of all private land in the U.S. The Census offers the most comprehensive data on farms and farmers,
including the land they operate. Yet it is a poor source of information on agricultural land ownership; it covers land
owners only when they are also “farm operators” (farmers). Other landlords and nonoperator owners are intentionally
excluded from the census of agriculture.
The crucial distinction is between farmers and agricultural land owners. A farmer may rent rather than own land, and
an agricultural land owner may not operate a farm. The census of agriculture studies farmers, not land owners. Land
owners, though, are exactly the focus of the 1999 AELOS. It reveals much more than the Census about the ownership
of agricultural land. For example, the 1997 Census of Agriculture says that 16,560 Black farmers own 1.5 million acres,
whereas the 1999 AELOS shows 68,000 Black agricultural land owners with over 7.7 million acres. This discrepancy has
broad implications.
Researchers who work on these issues know that census of agriculture data are problematic. For one thing, small
farmers are more likely to be missed by the census, and minority farmers tend to be small-scale. The 1997 Census of
Agriculture (the first conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture instead of the Department of Commerce) made
special efforts to include more minority farmers, and seems to have produced results.
Another problem is the census handling of American Indians. The 1997 Census of Agriculture (tables 17, 19, and
appendix B) reports that 18,495 Indian farmers operate 52 million acres, for an average Indian farm size of 2,812
acres-almost seven times the average size for all U.S. farms. (See footnote to box table.) This measure is highly
unlikely; it results from the Census’s counting each reservation as a single farm. The 46 million acres on Indian
reservations is included (and constitutes the vast majority) in the total for Indian agricultural land. Thus, it is difficult to
Blacks, different data sources report
different amounts of land owner-
ship for American Indians (see box,
“Many Agricultural Land Owners
Are Not Farmers”).
Asians (and Pacific Islanders)
make up the smallest of the racial
groups in the AELOS. Some 8,158
Asians own slightly less than a mil-
lion acres, with an average of 118
acres per owner (table 1). Owner-
operators control over two-thirds of
this land, with the remainder held
by landlords who do not farm
(table 2). However, 39 percent of
all Asian-owned acres are rented
out, indicating that some owner-
operators are also landlords (table
3). The total value of agricultural
rent collected by Asian landlords is
almost $43 million. Asian-owned
land is highly concentrated in crops
(76 percent of all acres), and 90
percent of Asian owners have some
cropland (table 4). Only a small
percentage of Asian acreage is in
pasture, woodland, or the
Conservation Reserve Program
(table 5). Asian owners are concen-
trated in California and Hawaii,
areas that specialize in high-value
crop production such as orchards
and specialty crops.
The AELOS also gathers data on
Hispanic-owned agricultural land.
Individuals in this ethnic category
are included in the AELOS racial
categories, but are also reported
separately as being “of Spanish ori-
gin.” Thus, because Hispanics are
already counted in the racial cate- 59
Winter 2002/Volume 17, Issue 4
Comparison of 1997 Census of Agriculture and 1999 AELOS on owner-operators, by race and ethnicity
Major data sources disagree
Census of Agriculture AELOS
Owner-operators Acres owned Owner-operators Acres owned
Group Number Percent (1,000) Percent Number Percent (1,000) Percent
United States 1,720,730 553,705 1,966,715 542,890
White 1,679,861 97.6 501,683 90.6 1,892,676 96.2 533,642 98.3
Black 16,560 1.0 1,499 0.3 29,241 1.5 2,502 0.5
American Indian 9,406+10.5 48,043 8.7 17,479 0.9 2,615 0.5
Asian 6,502 0.4 786 0.1 6,116 0.3 655 0.1
Other 8,401 0.5 1,694 0.3 21,203 1.1 3,475 0.6
Hispanic 24,365 1.4 10,462 1.9 33,834 1.7 10,160 1.9
1The number of American Indian owner-operators is not reported in the 1997 Census of Agriculture. It is between the 9,406 owner-operators
reported in Table 17 and the 18,495 Indian farmers reported in Appendix B, Table A. The total number of Indian owner-operators is certainly closer to
18,495. Furthermore, the Census of Agriculture count of the acres operated by Indian owner-operators includes reservation land, which is excluded
from the AELOS.
Sources: Tables 16, 17, 46, and Appendix B, 1997 Census of AgricultureUnited States Data, and Table 68,
1999 Agricultural Economics and Land
Ownership Survey
compare census of agriculture data on Indians with data on other groups, for whom individually held land is the
dominant type of ownership.
Finally, the AELOS shows many more owner-operators for all racial/ethnic groups (except Asians) than does the
1997 Census of Agriculture. AELOS estimates of acres owned by owner-operators are closer to the census figures,
but still considerably higher for Blacks (see table).
gories, data on these owners are
not strictly comparable to the data
by race.
The AELOS reports 47,000
Hispanic owners of agricultural
land, with almost 13 million acres
(table 1). Over 70 percent of these
owners operate the land themselves
(table 2). They have larger average
holdings (273 acres per owner)
than any racial group, including
Whites. Hispanics leased out almost
3 million acres, for $156 million in
rent (table 3). Over 60 percent of
Hispanic-owned agricultural land is
in pasture, and 28 percent in crops
(table 4). As with American
Indians, this is likely due to their
concentration in the Southwest,
where livestock operations predom-
inate. Only about 5 percent of
Hispanic owners participate in the
Conservation Reserve Program
(about half the rate for Whites), and
less than 3 percent of Hispanic-
owned land is in the CRP (table 5).
Racial/Ethnic Comparisons
Among agricultural land own-
ers, the most striking finding is that
minorities are truly in the minority.
Less than 4 percent of all owners
are non-White. They hold only 2
percent of all private agricultural
land and control just 3 percent of
its value. Still, the absolute num-
bers for minority land owners
(25 million acres worth $44 billion)
indicate agricultural land as a
tremendous resource for these
groups, who tend to reside in
particularly poor regions of rural
Individual minority groups
vary significantly—in tenure status
(operator or landlord), value of
land, rents received, and land
uses. Compared with other races
Volume 17, Issue 4/Winter 2002
Table 4
Land use by agricultural land owners and acres, by race and ethnicity, 19991
Agricultural land use varies across groups
Cropland Pastureland
Owners Acres Owners Acres
Average Average
Group Number Percent 1,000 Percent acres Number Percent 1,000 Percent acres
United States 2,710,174 79 434,162 47 160 1,870,355 55 379,579 41 203
White 2,567,497 80 394,792 46 154 1,785,108 55 351,783 41 197
Black 48,916 72 3,772 49 77 28,421 42 2,169 28 76
American Indian 14,437 62 1,309 39 91 16,980 73 1,671 49 98
Asian 7,367 90 733 76 99 1,221 15 76 8 62
Other 14,921 55 1,689 36 113 17,390 64 2,400 52 138
Hispanic 29,619 63 3,632 28 123 27,992 59 8,055 63 288
Woodland Other
Owners Acres Owners Acres
Average Average
Group Number Percent 1,000 Percent acres Number Percent 1,000 Percent acres
United States 1,210,005 35 73,016 8 60 2,215,992 65 45,738 5 21
White 1,149,038 36 68,396 8 60 2,101,328 65 41,080 5 20
Black 28,938 43 1,244 16 43 41,923 62 569 7 14
American Indian 7,525 32 267 8 35 17,366 75 151 4 9
Asian 1,739 21 105 11 60 3,726 46 50 5 13
Other 4,740 17 250 5 53 19,650 72 300 6 15
Hispanic 8,978 19 678 5 76 29,967 63 524 4 17
1Owners usually own land in multiple land-use categories, but any given acre is devoted to only one land use. Therefore, if one sums all owners in the
land-use categories, they will be higher than the total number of owners, whereas the summed land-use acres equal the total number of acres.
Source: Table 74,
1999 Agricultural Economics and Land Ownership Survey
(including Whites), a large propor-
tion of Blacks are nonoperator
owners, who own two-thirds of all
Black-held agricultural land. The
other racial minorities are above
the national averages (58 percent)
for both owner-operators and the
acres they own.
Moreover, agricultural land use
patterns differ among racial/ethnic
groups. Blacks have above-average
percentages of woodland and
below-average pastureland, with
the largest proportion of their land
in crops. American Indian and
Hispanic owners use most of their
agricultural land as pasture, where-
as Asians have hardly any pasture-
land and a large majority of their
land in crops, especially high-value
ones. These land use patterns
reflect the regionalization of U.S.
agriculture and the concentration
of racial/ethnic populations.
This article only begins to doc-
ument minority land ownership.
Largely due to data sources, it has
several serious limitations. First, it
covers privately held land, thus
excluding the major resource base
of American Indians: reservations.
Second, it presents only national
data; State-level information (much
less county-level) is not available
from the AELOS by racial groups.
Third, it is cross-sectional, dealing
with ownership at only one point
in time (1999).
Trend data—ownership
changes over time—are essential
for both agricultural policymakers
and practitioners of land-based
community development. Activists
and analysts need more accurate
information on land ownership. In
minority communities, this can be
an especially pressing concern
since some are not reaping the full
value of their property, and others
are in danger of losing their land
base altogether. Several improve-
ments would strengthen our knowl-
edge of land ownership:
The AELOS could be conducted
every 5 (rather than 10) years
as a regular follow-on survey
to the Census of Agriculture.
Racial characteristics could be
reported at the State level, not
just the national level.
The Census of Agriculture
could break down the tenure
category of “part owner” by
owned and rented land by
race (cf. tables 17 and 46 in
the 1997 Census).
USDA could support a volun-
tary registry of minority land
owners (following recommen-
dation 28 of USDA’s 1997 Civil
Rights Action Team Report).
American Indian farmers and
land could be better counted.
Reservations, for instance,
are not single farms, as the
Census of Agriculture now
classifies them.
Many believe, and research
has shown, that land ownership is
of tremendous economic, cultural,
and political value to rural com-
munities (e.g., Salamon, Couto,
LaDuke, Mitchell). Major private
Winter 2002/Volume 17, Issue 4
Table 5
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) participation of agricultural land owners and acres by race and ethnicity, 1999
Minority land owners use CRP less than Whites
CRP land
Owners Acres
All Acres Average
Group owners (1,000) Number Percent (1,000) Percent acres1
United States 3,412,080 932,495 320,323 9.4 39,759 4.3 124
White 3,218,751 856,051 308,052 9.6 37,936 4.4 123
Black 68,056 7,754 4,789 7.0 363 4.7 76
American Indian 23,266 3,398 537 2.3 52 1.5 97
Asian 8,158 964 252 3.1 39 4.0 155
Other 27,290 4,640 578 2.1 38 0.8 66
Hispanic 47,223 12,888 2,295 4.9 349 2.7 152
1Average acres in CRP for those participating in the program. U.S. average is higher than race-specific averages because U.S. figures include corporate
and other non-individual owners that do not have racial characteristics, plus some individuals who did not answer or did not receive a racial identifier.
Source: Table 74,
1999 Agricultural Economics and Land Ownership Survey
foundations, as well as the Federal
Government, are also convinced.
They have invested millions of
dollars in research and community
development activities that bolster
land ownership. The 25 million
acres that the 1999 AELOS reports
for minority owners, worth over
$44 billion, are only a small frac-
tion of the amount and value of
all U.S. private agricultural land.
However, it is a major form of
wealth in minority rural America,
much as homeownership—a top
policy priority—is throughout
the Nation.
This currently existing asset
base, in some of the poorest areas
of the country, could be further
utilized in community development
efforts. Access to land means that
rural communities have more
options in addressing rural housing
needs. Minority land ownership is
being used to develop youth train-
ing programs in many rural areas.
Small producers and land owners
have created opportunities for
value-added agriculture (e.g., truck
crop operations and farmers’ mar-
kets). Additionally, of course, land
owners have greater financial possi-
bilities. Land often serves as collat-
eral for college educations and
entreprenurial ventures. These are
just some of the ways that land
ownership is crucially important to
rural minority communities. This
social asset base is too often over-
looked by race/ethnic scholars,
agricultural policymakers, and
sometimes even rural development
practitioners in the communities
Volume 17, Issue 4/Winter 2002
For Further Reading . . .
David Buland and Fen C. Hunt, Hispanics in Agriculture and Opportunities for
Resource Conservation, paper presented at the National Organization of
Professional Hispanic NRCS Employees Conference, Washington, DC, 2000.
Richard A. Couto,
Aint Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round: The Pursuit of Racial
Justice in the Rural South
, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991.
Carl Flink, Finding a Place for Low-Income Family Farmers in the Legal Services
Clearinghouse Review
, Vol. 35, Nos. 11-12, 2002, pp. 677-694.
Kathleen R. Guzman, Give or Take an Acre: Property Norms and the Indian Land
Consolidation Act,
Iowa Law Review
, Vol. 85, 2002, pp. 595-662.
Winona LaDuke,
All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life
, Boston:
South End Press, 1999.
J. R. McKean, W.L. Liu, and R.G. Taylor, Inadequate Data Base for American Indian
Agriculture, Agricultural Experiment Station Technical Bulletin TB93-2, Fort Collins,
CO: Colorado State University, 1993.
Thomas W. Mitchell, From Reconstruction to Deconstruction: Undermining Black
Landownership, Political Independence, and Community through Partition Sales of
Tenancies in Common,
Northwestern University Law Review
, Vol. 95, No. 2, 2001,
pp. 505-580.
Lester M. Salamon, The Time Dimension in Policy Evaluation: The Case of the
New Deal Land Reform Experiments,
Public Policy
, Vol. 27, No. 2, 1979,
pp. 129-183.
United States Department of Agriculture,
Civil Rights at the United States
Department of Agriculture: A Report by the Civil Rights Action Team
, Washington,
DC, February 1997.
United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service,
1997 Census of Agriculture: United States Summary and State Data
, AC97-A-51,
USDA, 1999.
United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service,
1997 Census of Agriculture: Agricultural Economics and Land Ownership Survey
, AC97-SP-4, 2001.
Marlow Vesterby and Kenneth S. Krupa,
Major Uses of Land in the United States,
, USDA, Economic Research Service, Statistical Bulletin No. 973, 2001.
Spencer D. Wood and Jess Gilbert, Returning African-American Farmers to the
Land: Recent Trends and a Policy Rationale,
Review of Black Political Economy
Vol. 27, No. 4, 2000, pp. 43-64.
Gene Wunderlich, The Land Question: Are There Answers?
Rural Sociology
Vol. 58, No. 4, 1993, pp. 547-559.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits
discrimination in all its programs and activities on the
basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age,
disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or
marital or family status. (Not all prohibited bases
apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who
require alternative means for communication of
program information (Braille, large print, audiotape,
etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at
202-720-2600 (voice and TDD).
To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA,
Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten
Building, 14th and Independence Avenue, SW,
Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call 202-720-5964
(voice and TDD). USDA is an equal employment
opportunity provider and employer.
On the cover:
Photo courtesy
EyeWire Photography and
Digital Stock.
Feature Articles
2Understanding Rural Population Loss
David A. McGranahan and Calvin L. Beale
12 Nonmetro Recreation Counties: Their Identification
and Rapid Growth
Kenneth M. Johnson and Calvin L. Beale
20 Federal Funding in the Delta
Richard J. Reeder and Samuel D. Calhoun
31 Federal Funding in Appalachia and Its Three Subregions
Faqir S. Bagi, Richard J. Reeder, and Samuel D. Calhoun
38 Can Rural Employment Benefit From Changing Labor
Skills in U.S. Processed Food Trade?
Gerald Schluter and Chinkook Lee
44 Economic Impact of Water/Sewer Facilities on Rural
and Urban Communities
Faqir S. Bagi
50 Resource Conservation and Development Program
Reaches a Milestone
Dwight M. Gadsby
55 Who Owns the Land? Agricultural Land Ownership
by Race/Ethnicity
Jess Gilbert, Spencer D. Wood, and Gwen Sharp
63 How Does Growing U.S.-China Trade Affect
Rural America?
Fred Gale
Rural Updates
70 Migration:
Nonmetro Migration Continues
Downward Trend
John Cromartie
74 Rural Poverty:
Rural Poverty at Record Low in 2000
Dean Jolliffe
78 Jobs and Earnings:
Rural Earnings Up in 2000, But Much Less Than
Urban Earnings
Linda M. Ghelfi
Douglas E. Bowers, Executive Editor
Carolyn Rogers, Associate Editor
Dale Simms, Managing Editor
Victor B. Phillips, Jr., Layout and Design
Rural America
(ISSN 0271-2171) is published
four times per year by USDA’s Economic
Research Service.
Rural America
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ed. Opinions expressed within do not neces-
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approval or constitute endorsement by USDA.
USDA/ERS Volume 17, Issue 4 Winter 2002
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This is the final issue of Rural America, which will be replaced in February of 2003 with a magazine covering
all of ERS’s research areas. This issue begins with a new look at rural population loss by David A. McGranahan
and Calvin L. Beale. The counties most likely to lose people in the 1990s had low population densities, few
amenities, and were not near any metro centers—all characteristics that discourage development. The few counties with
these characteristics that did not lose people benefited from unusual circumstances, such as industrial agriculture or
casinos. Surprisingly, high-poverty counties were no more likely to lose people than were other counties.
Counties blessed with natural amenities, on the other hand, have been among the most rapidly growing. Kenneth M.
Johnson and Calvin L. Beale have identified 330 nonmetro recreation counties, many of which score high in amenities.
These counties have grown faster than most county types, largely from inmigration. Most are in the mountain West or upper
Great Lakes and can be classified according to their principal attraction, such as casinos, reservoir lakes, or ski resorts.
Two articles treat regional development efforts, an increasingly popular way of targeting rural development programs.
Richard J. Reeder and Samuel D. Calhoun discuss the new Delta Regional Authority, created in 2000 to assist the
Mississippi Delta counties in 8 States. This region made substantial progress in the 1990s but still lags the Nation in
poverty, unemployment, and per capita income. The new Authority is expected to leverage project funding, emphasizing
infrastructure and aid to distressed areas. Faqir S. Bagi, Reeder, and Calhoun studied Federal funding in the Appalachian
Regional Commission (ARC) area, which encompasses parts of 13 States. Appalachia has made significant strides in
recent decades but still suffers from high poverty and transportation problems. Central Appalachia is the
poorest section and, therefore, receives large per capita income support payments. ARC is concentrating on improving
highways to attract more industry.
Manufacturing employment has held up relatively well in rural areas, despite a long-running downward trend
nationally. However, the skill level of food processing employees has dropped, as noted by Gerald Schluter and Chinkook
Lee in their study of the skill needs of the U.S. processed food trade. The growth of overseas trade in meat and poultry
has led to higher demand for low-skilled workers. Many of these new jobs have been in rural areas, but the wages and
nature of the work make the jobs unattractive to local workers, necessitating immigrant and commuter workers.
Publicly supported water and sewer facilities can generate economic benefits well beyond the supply of water. Faqir
Singh Bagi uses a study of Economic Development Administration projects to show how water system projects create and
save jobs, increase private investment, and add to the local property tax base. The effects are greater in urban areas, but
rural areas receive substantial benefits.
One Federal program that has assisted with a wide variety of rural development projects is the Resource Conservation
and Development program (RC&D), which is explored by Dwight M. Gadsby. Established in the 1960s to counter
economic decline, locally planned RC&D projects have grown strongly over the past decade and were given permanent
status in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002.
Interest in minority farmers has been increasing recently. Census of agriculture data can overlook minorities because of
its focus on farm operators. Jess Gilbert, Spencer D. Wood, and Gwen Sharp have used USDA’s 1999 Agricultural Economics
and Land Ownership Survey to look at land ownership by Blacks, American Indians, Asians, and Hispanics, as well as Whites.
Counting nonoperating land owners, especially Blacks, adds considerably to the number of minority people involved with
agriculture. While few in number, these people make up an important component of their local communities.
Finally, Fred Gale examines how growing trade between and United States and China might affect rural areas in this
country. Imports from China—often of goods that compete with rural American industries—have soared since the
mid-1980s. On the other hand, prospects for agricultural exports to China are promising. Chinese competition will
require adjustments in the rural economy.
In the Rural Updates section, John Cromartie reports on a significant reversal in rural migration. In 2000-2001, the
number of people moving from nonmetro to metro counties exceeded the number moving from metro to nonmetro by
more than 1 million for the first time since the 1980s. Rural areas had gained from migration during most of the 1990s,
but an aging rural population and more rapid job growth in metro areas has caused a turnabout. The biggest changes
occurred in the West and among college graduates.
Dean Jolliffe traces the decline in rural poverty, which reached its lowest recorded level of 13.4 percent in 2000.
Poverty rates are highest among minorities and children, and in the West and South. In all regions, nonmetro poverty is
higher than metro. Nonmetro earnings per job likewise improved in 2000, according to Linda M. Ghelfi, rising 0.7 per-
cent. But nonmetro earnings also continue to lag metro. The rural-urban earnings gap widened in the 1990s and now
stands at 33 percent. Because available poverty and earnings data only go through 2000, they do not yet record the effects
of the recent recession.
Winter 2002/Volume 17, Issue 4
... The shortfalls of the farm bill regarding social equity and justice require further elaboration here. A study analyzing agricultural land ownership patterns in the US in the late 1990s found that minority groups, comprising African Americans, Native Americans, Asians, and Hispanics, constituted less than 4 percent of all landowners and held only 2 percent of private agricultural land [132]. The loss of agricultural land among African American farmers and the resultant decline in their participation in the US agricultural sector has received significant research attention in recent decades. ...
... The loss of agricultural land among African American farmers and the resultant decline in their participation in the US agricultural sector has received significant research attention in recent decades. For instance, between 1910 and 1997, land ownership by African American farmers declined from a peak of 16-19 million acres to just 1.5 million acres [132,133]. Similarly, the number of African American farmers declined from 926,000 in 1920, representing 14 percent of all farmers to about 20,000 by 1997, constituting just 1 percent of the population of farmers in the country [133,134]. Key among the reasons that have been cited for these trends is the persistence of discriminatory implementation mechanisms in the agricultural sector that limit access of African American farmers to federal government agricultural programs, such as the farm bill conservation programs [122,131,134]. ...
Full-text available
Although the transition to industrial agriculture in the 20th century resulted in increased agricultural productivity and efficiency, the attainment of global food security continues to be elusive. Current and anticipated impacts of climate change on the agricultural sector are likely to exacerbate the incidence of food insecurity. In recent years, climate-smart agriculture has gained recognition as a mechanism that has the potential to contribute to the attainment of food security and also enhance climate change mitigation and adaptation. However, several conceptual and implementation shortfalls have limited the widespread adoption of this innovative agricultural system at the landscape scale. This manuscript argues for the use of ecosystem management as an overarching framework for the conceptualization and implementation of climate-smart agriculture. The manuscript focuses on clarifying the foundational assumptions and management goals, as well as the knowledge and institutional requirements of climate-smart agriculture using the principles of ecosystem management. Potential challenges that may be faced by the application of an ecosystem management approach to climate-smart agriculture are also discussed. Furthermore, the manuscript calls for a heightened focus on social equity in the transition toward an ecosystem-based approach to climate-smart agriculture. The US farm bill is used as an illustrative case study along with other examples drawn mostly from sub-Saharan Africa.
... Farmland in the United States has always been highly concentrated among White male farmers and owners-but it was not always as concentrated as it is today (Horst and Marion 2018;Gilbert, Wood, and Sharp 2002). In the years after emancipation, formerly enslaved Black farmers struggled to prosper under the new exploitative arrangements of sharecropping. ...
Technical Report
Full-text available
Over the past century, farms in the United States have steadily grown in size while dwindling in number. Farm numbers have fallen from a peak of nearly 6.5 million in 1920 to just more than 2 million today, while average farm size has tripled (Dimitri, Effland, and Conklin 2005; USDA NASS 2019a). Farmland consolidation—the trend toward larger, fewer farms—is closely intertwined with another profound change in agriculture: the replacement of labor by capital, in the form of machinery and chemical inputs. This shift toward larger and more capital- intensive farms has occurred as a result of public policies and markets that demand and reward maximum yields of a few commodity crops. But this emphasis on productivity has also brought about a complex array of negative social consequences. The consolidation of farmland, in particular, is associated with the barriers faced by new farmers and the hollowing out of rural communities. The environmental consequences of agriculture’s transformation are the subject of widespread public and scholarly discussion. But the connections between farmland consolidation and the social and economic crises faced by rural communities have received less attention (Horrigan, Lawrence, and Walker 2002; Kimbrell 2002; Kremen, Bacon, and Iles 2012). By its nature, consolidation drives down the number of farmers and farm jobs, undermining the historical foundation of rural economies and driving the depopulation of rural communities (Johnson and Lichter 2019; Cofer 2014). In the midwestern states, an important center of agricultural production, these issues are of particular concern. Just eight midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin) account for more than a third of the nation's crop sales—and these states have experienced especially severe consolidation. Nationally, harvested cropland on large farms (1,000 acres in size or larger) nearly doubled between 1978 and 2017—while in rural counties in the Midwest it more than quintupled (Haines, Fishback, and Rhode 2014; USDA NASS 2020). These issues compound the challenges posed by an aging farming population and the persistent, long-run decline in the share of new farmers, forecasting serious obstacles to the revitalization of rural communities (Carlisle et al. 2019). In this study, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) focused on these eight powerhouse agricultural states that have experienced severe consolidation, identifying connections between consolidation and the declining share of new farmers. While the proportion of new farmers has declined across the country over the past four decades, we found that in these states it declined 56 percent faster in counties experiencing more rapid consolidation than in those experiencing slower consolidation. The negative effects of decades of farmland consolidation are felt across all rural communities, but they are not distributed equally. For Black farmers, the fierce competitive pressures exerted by a century of consolidation have always been compounded by the shameful history of intentional, systematic, institutional racism. Racist discrimination amplified the pressures brought by consolidation, and together these forces drove a 98 percent reduction in the number of Black farmers between 1920 and 2017. In contrast, the number of White farmers declined by 65 percent over the same period (Haines, Fishback, and Rhode 2014; USDA NASS 2020). Union of Concerned Scientists | 2 Of course, the history of land dispossession in the United States is older than the last century. The violent displacement and theft of land from Native communities form the context and backstory for this study. Our focus on farmland consolidation over the past century puts important issues beyond the scope of this report, including a reasonable accounting for the crimes of colonization, the institutionalized systems of land theft that followed, and their impacts through the 20th century and beyond (Leonard, Parker, and Anderson 2020). Further, due to limitations in available data, along with the complex challenges created by the system of land tenure and related policies imposed on tribal governments in the 19th century, it is not possible to address here how farmland consolidation has affected Native farmers (Indian Land Tenure Foundation 2020). These grave injustices, both historical and ongoing, nevertheless form the foundation for the issues we discuss here. For this study, we assessed the extent and distribution of farmland consolidation in the United States from 1978 to 2017 at the county level, both nationally and in the Midwest. We also investigated connections between trends in land consolidation, new farmer entry, and changes in the number of Black farmers. To investigate new farmer entry, we use (1) farmer age and experience (as an indicator of new farmer entry) and (2) the value of farmland (as a proxy for farmland price, a barrier to new farmer entry), all at the county level. In order to better understand the changing status of Black farmers (and deal with limitations of the available data, described below), we calculate the proportion of Black farmers among all farmers at the state level and examine the changing ranks of states by this proportion over time. The convergence of environmental and social crises in rural communities points toward the need for broad and equitable land access to enable a new generation of farmers to steward the land, produce healthy food, and revitalize regional economies (Carlisle et al. 2019). Change is inevitable, as our aging farm population foreshadows the transfer of 44 percent of the nation's farmland over the next 10 years (Thapar 2020). But the consolidation of farmland pushes us in the opposite direction of the change we need: exacerbating barriers to new farmers, amplifying inequality, hollowing out rural communities, and leading us further from a just and equitable food system that works for everyone (Carlisle et al. 2019).
... 3 By 1900, 25 percent of all Black farmers owned farmland, totaling 13.6 million acres (Du Bois 1904:83). Black farmland ownership peaked at over 16 million acres in 1920 (Gilbert, Wood, and Sharp 2002) before beginning a steady decline. By 2017, total Black farmland ownership was only 2.5 million acres (U.S. ...
We use critical race theory (CRT) to examine the involuntary loss of land and homes among Black residents of the southeastern United States and in particular among the Gullah/Geechee. An Afro‐indigenous population, the Gullah/Geechee have deep roots in the federally designated Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, an area of sea islands and coastal Lowcountry within 25 coastal counties in North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. We identify legal vulnerabilities associated with heirs property, in particular tax sales and predatory partition actions, as mechanisms used within the legal system to dispossess owners of their land. Our use of CRT allows us to understand heirs property as a legacy of the Jim Crow era and to recognize material motivations behind continued racial discrimination that has led to involuntary land loss. CRT also leads us to consider the question of empowerment of the Gullah/Geechee population through a program of reparations for wrongful taking of land and homes since coastal development began roughly 70 years ago. One possible mechanism for reparations is to increase existing lodging taxes on coastal tourism along the Gullah/Geechee coast.
... Having demonstrated racial discrimination in ACEP-ALE and explored the likely influence of the program's eligibility and ranking criteria on that discrimination, in this section, we analyze the potential of farmer outreach to mitigate and/or exacerbate such discrimination. Given that the USDA has previously discriminated against farmers of color by Across the US and in Georgia, Black farmers are poorer and own less land on average than white farmers (Gilbert, Wood, and Sharp 2002;USDA 2017bUSDA , 2017d. Farm Succession or Business Plan 5 ...
Over the past several decades the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched a 'Cultural Transformation Initiative' aimed at addressing racial discrimination. Yet recent work from a wide range of sources questions whether these efforts have resulted in meaningful material transformations to USDA governance. This article focuses on one of the USDA's main farmland protection programs and analyzes the extent to which it challenges and/or reproduces racial inequalities in the state of Georgia. We conclude that the program continues to present significant barriers to racial equity, many of which stem from national-level criteria. Moreover, the USDA's internal civil rights audit mechanism also fails to address or acknowledge these problems. We use quantitative and qualitative methods to highlight how racial inequality is reproduced through class biases, and argue that any meaningful transformation in the uneven effects of USDA programs requires attention to the historical geographies of land ownership.
... Immediately after Emancipation in 1865, African Americans quickly sought land ownership, both communally and individually, as a means to manifest Emancipation's promised freedom (Couto 1991;Gilbert et al. 2002a;McGee and Boone 1979;Pennick et al. 2009). Despite the continued forms of racism that plagued the United States and the South specifically, by 1910 African Americans owned nearly 16 million acres of land (Gilbert et al. 2002b;Marable 1979). Land ownership provided a means for African Americans to create forms of self-sufficiency, to build their own enterprises, and to more fully engage in social and political freedom (Brown et al. 1994;Groger 1987;Pennick 1990;Zabawa 1991). ...
“Holding Land, Claiming Kin” uses a comparison between the Southern US and the Caribbean island of Barbados to explore the connection between race, property, and kinship. Focusing on the customary practices of family land and the legal category of heir property, we argue that land ownership is used by racially dispossessed populations to name and practise kinship, to assert multiple forms of belonging, and to define their own value systems within racialised, social, and legal structures. Contributing to broader understandings of Black geographies, this work adds to social understandings of land ownership as place making and has the potential to influence US policies around grants, agricultural assistance, and protection of heir property, as well as Caribbean understandings of land as a family resource. Through this comparative analysis we posit dispossession as more than the loss of monetary wealth and land ownership as more than an economic asset.
... 16 A landgrant research system geared toward the needs and profits of large-scale white farmers and landowners (Hightower 1972), combined with systematic discrimination against Black farmers in access to credit and other USDA services, all but ensured that the benefits of technological intensification would accrue overwhelmingly to white farmers and intensified Black land loss. Around 18 million acres of land were owned by Black farmers in 1910, versus 1.5 million in 1997 (Gilbert et al. 2002). The 1960s was the decade of the greatest Black land loss in the U.S. South. ...
Full-text available
This article examines the shifting ways in which the dispossessive and toxic effects of agricultural chemicals have been encoded as agrarian best practices. I develop the concept of agrarian racial regimes, based on the work of Cedric Robinson, to examine how constructed hierarchies of human worth are made central to the sale and usage of chemicals. A focus on the politics of pesticides in the Mississippi Delta, a plantation region of the U.S. South, elucidates the ways in which agrarian racial capitalism has been reproduced through shifting antiblack conceptions of racial difference and technological progress. Two key conjunctures serve to draw these dynamics into relief: the development of the application of pesticides by aircraft in the 1920s and 1930s and the shift toward nearly complete mechanization and chemicalization of cotton production in the 1950s and 1960s. Analyzing film and advertisements in this period in the context of the material relations of agriculture and race, I argue that dispossession and toxicity are encoded as best practices through antiblack representations of agrarian whiteness. In the first period, chemicals were positioned as the height of progress through racist depictions of Black workers in the fields. In the second period, in response to Black challenges to white supremacy, the notion of “clean cotton” was deployed to represent Black absence as the height of technological progress and possessive agrarian masculinity. In both instances, racial representation has served to justify unstable and toxic relations of unequal power and profit.
... To account for this intertwined complexity, Norgaard (2019) applies the term racial-colonial formation. In the US, racial-colonial formation can help us understand, for example, why the top five white landowners own more land than all black landowners combined (Moore, 2015); why exclusive access to land and natural resources that privileges white ownership has created enduring racial wealth gaps (Gilbert, Wood, & Sharp, 2002;Miller, 2011;Schelhas, 2002); why environmental injustice and military waste tend to concentrate in Indigenous communities and communities of color (Hooks & Smith, 2004;Liévanos, 2015;Lievanos & Horne, 2017;Pulido, 2017); the racial differences in environmental activism (Taylor & Station, 2002); the border militarization around immigration policy; and how racial-colonial constructs shape state discourse on environmental disaster (Bacon, 2019;Holleman, 2016Holleman, , 2018 and proprietary regimes in the context of neoliberalism (Goldstein, 2008). ...
Full-text available
Settler colonialism expands race and racism beyond ideological perspectives and reveals the links between historical and contemporary racialized social relations and practices–the racial structure–of American society. In this article, we define settler colonialism, highlight sociological scholarship that uses settler colonial theoretical frameworks, and explore ways in which this work enriches, intersects with, complicates, and contradicts key assumptions within the sociology of race.
Full-text available
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the chasms in the food and agricultural systems became plain for all to see. But even before COVID-19, the food and agricultural systems were in crisis: millions of people were hungry, there was a loss of biodiversity, climate change impacts were devastating, and labour condi�tions appalling. So, how do we do things differently to guarantee a different outcome in a world beset by seemingly insurmountable challenges. Authors of this publication present alterna�tives for post-COVID-19 food and agricultural systems from a politically-leftist perspective and discuss the impact of the pandemic.
The misperception that hip-hop is a single entity that glorifies wealth and the selling of drugs, and promotes misogynistic attitudes towards women, as well as advocating gang violence is one that supports a mainstream perspective towards the marginalized.1 The prevalence of drug dealing and drug use is not a picture of inherent actions of members in the hip-hop community, but a reflection of economic opportunities that those in poverty see as a means towards living well. Some artists may glorify that, but other artists either decry it or offer it as a tragic reality. In hip-hop trends build off of music and music builds off of trends in a cyclical manner. A hip-hop artist often sees an economic incentive to fall within these stereotypes. Following trends is how to stay popular and stay relevant within the realm of popular culture. The content of hip-hop, however, is much broader and more diverse in its ethos and ideologies than what is heard on the radio. The goal of this thesis is to examine the broader spectrum of hip-hop, and to take a look behind the curtain and reveal a vaster and more variable genre that branches from these stereotypes and trends. This thesis will use samples of hip-hop music as its primary data, giving voice back to the marginalized from whom it has been taken. By analyzing these primary sources, a better understanding of artistic intent and context will be derived from mainstream hip-hop culture and its various branches.
This critical review explored the current scholarship of the experiences and challenges faced by Gullah Geechee midlife women heirs’ property owners along the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. Past researchers have noted these women often experience invisibility due to the concurrent burdens of management of jointly-owned property along the Corridor in addition to legacy experiences of cultural isolation, land dispossession, voice dispossession, and ancestry enslavement. Past researchers have called for ongoing collaborative research by both non-indigenous and indigenous researchers as a gap continues for gendered perspectives for current Corridor heirs’ property challenges and land dispossession with respect to power, trauma, economic impact, Gullah Geechee ways of knowing, land-based cultural values, heritage tourism, governmental dispossession, and the legacy of enslavement for critical inquiry from the transformative paradigm.
Full-text available
Today, there are only about 18,000 black farmers in the United States. Declining by 98 percent since 1920, they have suffered losses due to public policy, economic pressures, and racial oppression. All of these factors must be addressed if African American farmers and their communities are to thrive. In this article, we use Census of Agriculture data and a follow-on survey in one Mississippi Delta county to review the current situation of black farmers. We introduce the concept of "returning farmers" to suggest that a significant number of black farmers, who are not defined as "farmers" by the Census, still own land and want to farm again. The first section of the article provides a brief overview of the historical and current trends in the U.S. The second section discusses Delta County, drawing upon our interviews and the Census of Agriculture. The third section discusses the implications of civil rights violations by the former Farmers Home Administration of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the resulting class-action lawsuit. Finally, we conclude with a policy recommendation to slow the drastic decline of African-American farmers.
The pattern of landownership in the rural African American community represents the mirror opposite of the trend in black land acquisition 100 years ago at the dawn of the twentieth century. Remarkable levels of acquisition have been replaced by extraordinary levels of land loss in the past half-century or so. Today, African American farm owner-operators on little more than 2 million acres of land in the United States. Land loss in rural African American communities far exceeds farmland lost by white farmers. Even American Indian landowners-a group whose current land base represents but a fraction of its ancestral landholdings-have fared better than rural African American landowners over the past 50 to 60 years. This paper focuses on one of the primary causes of involuntary black land loss in recent times-partition sales of black-owned land held under tenancies in common. Our society has a clear moral obligation to reverse the processes that have stripped black landowners of their land. This paper advocates government intervention to promote enhanced landownership-both quantitatively and qualitatively-for African Americans. This paper maintains that the problem of fractionated heir property within the rural, African American community justifies more fundamental reform of common property law and the creation of government institutions that would have the capacity to help those who own heir property restructure their ownership in a way that the ownership could be stabilized and the property could be used productively.
Hispanics in Agriculture and Opportunities for Resource Conservation," paper presented at the National Organization of Professional Hispanic NRCS Employees Conference
  • David Buland
  • Fen C Hunt
David Buland and Fen C. Hunt, "Hispanics in Agriculture and Opportunities for Resource Conservation," paper presented at the National Organization of Professional Hispanic NRCS Employees Conference, Washington, DC, 2000.
Finding a Place for Low-Income Family Farmers in the Legal Services Equation
  • Carl Flink
Carl Flink, "Finding a Place for Low-Income Family Farmers in the Legal Services Equation," Clearinghouse Review, Vol. 35, Nos. 11-12, 2002, pp. 677-694.
All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life
  • Winona Laduke
Winona LaDuke, All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life, Boston: South End Press, 1999.
Inadequate Data Base for American Indian Agriculture Agricultural Experiment Station Technical Bulletin TB93-2
  • J R Mckean
  • W L Liu
  • R G Taylor
J. R. McKean, W.L. Liu, and R.G. Taylor, " Inadequate Data Base for American Indian Agriculture, " Agricultural Experiment Station Technical Bulletin TB93-2, Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University, 1993.
Major Uses of Land in the United States
  • Marlow Vesterby
  • Kenneth S Krupa
Marlow Vesterby and Kenneth S. Krupa, Major Uses of Land in the United States, 1997, USDA, Economic Research Service, Statistical Bulletin No. 973, 2001.