At a listening session on Wednesday, landowners and advocates spoke to the Department of Agriculture about the importance of reforming how the agency aids heirs property owners. The listening session was convened to collect input on a series of heirs property reforms mandated by the 2018 farm bill.
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)
The farm bill contains crucial improvements for black farmers and increased funding for historically black land-grant universities, members of the Congressional Black Caucus said on a media call Monday. The bill also includes provisions for heirs’ property owners — land passed down without formal title — that clears the way to apply for farm programs.
While debate over the farm bill has mostly centered on food assistance programs, an under-the-radar provision in the omnibus legislation could greatly assist farmers and ranchers who operate on heirs’ property—that is, inherited land that lacks clear title. The provision is particularly important to black farmers, because an estimated 40 percent of African-American owned land is located on heirs' property and as a result, those farmers have been blocked from federal farm programs.