UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE HISTORY
When the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was created, 90% of the American people were farmers. It was not until almost two decades after it's creation, that Cabinet status was achived by USDA on February 9, 1889. The Federal Farm Loan Act became law, July 1916. This Act sought to respond to the inadequacy of credit at reasonable rates for farmers. Apparently little or no thought was given to how credit would be dispensed among the various racial, gender and economic positions of farmers, and that has proven to be disastrous. According to numerous reports dating back to 1965, the root of these problems are found in the discriminatory environment present in the USDA, the very agency established by the US government to accommodate and assist the special needs of all farmers and ranchers.
Although farmers and ranchers are invaluable resources providing more than enough food and fiber to meet the needs of our Nation, they now represent less than 3% of the population.
22 million Americans are employed in processing, selling and trading the Nation's food and fiber
75 million Americans are recipients of USDA benecfits
In North Carolina there has been a 64% decline in African American farmers in the past 15 years, from 6,996 farms in 1978 to 2,498 farms in 1992.
PREVIOUS CIVIL RIGHTS STUDlES
1965 - first study by US Commission on Civil Rights established by the USDA
1970 - second study by USDA Employee Focus Group
1982 - The Decline of BLack Farming in America by the US Commission on Civil Rights
1990 - The Minority Farmer. A Disappearing Resource: Has The Farmers Home Administration Been the Primary Catalyst? by the House Governmental Operations Committee chaired by Rep. John Conyers
1997 (January) - Farm Programs: Efforts to Achieve Equitable Treatment of Minority Farmers by the General Accounting Office (GAO)
1997 (February) - Civil Rights at the United States Department of Agriculture by thc Civil Rights Action Team (CRAT) of the USDA
1997 (February) - a report by the Office of Inspector General Evaluation Report for the Secretary on Civil Rights Issues
These documents all reach the same basic conclusion: "there are significant problems with discrimination within the U.S. Department of Agriculture" to varying degrees in both internal ernployee related assaults, and external loan relatcd discrepancies to African Americans, Native Americans, women and other people of color.
Below is a short video excerpt about the importance of land for the all-black community of Tillery, North Carolina. This documentary brings to life the statistics above.