The 2018 farm bill included a provision to make it easier for farmers operating on so-called heirs property — land that passed from one generation of a family to another without a clear title — to obtain a USDA farm number and thus gain access to a multitude of government programs. The Senate is scheduled to vote this afternoon on an amendment by Alabama Sen. Doug Jones to provide $5 million for a re-lending program that would be a step toward resolving ownership issues.
Since the end of Reconstruction, following the Civil War, many black farmers have felt the twin pressures of hardship and neglect, reinforced by systematic discrimination from government agencies and financial institutions. The Center for American Progress, a left-leaning policy institute, issued a recent report advocating for policy changes to correct those inequities, many of which it says remain today. (No paywall)
Billed as "the magazine of the American landowner, The Land Report says the largest 100 landowners in the nation acquired an additional 2 million acres during 2017, an area larger than Delaware. All told, the 100 largest private land holders own 40.2 million acres, equivalent to the land mass of the New England states with Vermont excluded, said the Washington Post.
Since 1978, foreign entities and individuals have been required to report it to the USDA if they have at least a 10 percent interest in parcels of U.S. farmland totaling 10 acres or more. Yet the USDA does not review the reports for accuracy or completeness and, for lack of resources, does not even investigate if foreign investors are filing the required reports, says the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.