Fayetteville, Arkansas- A decade ago, the Keepseagle v. Vilsack case was originally settled. The case was brought by Native farmers and ranchers throughout the US to address a decades long history of discrimination in lending and in the servicing of loans by USDA. The settlement of the case had many aspects including the creation of the Native American Agriculture Fund. But the Fund cannot address all the issues the federal government can.
As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the land and creates emergencies in its wake, we see that systemic and persistent barriers continue to leave people out. When USDA deployed boxes of food, Tribal governments and Native food businesses were all but left out of the program. Nearly 97% of USDA-deployed resources went to non-BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) agriculturalists. These issues need to be addressed.
We need meaningful and deliberate action. The burden of debt is hitting every corner of our economy. But for BIPOC farmers and ranchers it is an emergency made even more dire because of the historic barriers faced in accessing government programs. Technical support is important to all farmers and ranchers but is even more important to those who have been left out of those resources for decades. We need to think more deeply, act more deliberately, and ensure people have a meaningful opportunity to receive the support they need to stay on the land and engaged in agriculture.
Agriculture in the US is going to need every single person we can find to embrace the act of feeding our people. We need the agriculturalists of tomorrow to be as diverse as our country. Most farmers and ranchers have absolutely no problem helping out their fellow farmers and ranchers, whether they live down the road or across the country. Most often, the fights against change come from folks who do not work the land. Those whose passion is food and agriculture know that BIPOC farmers and ranchers should be just as supported as others.
We need BIPOC farmers and ranchers fully involved in the acts of feeding us all. Without them we are weaker. We need to do everything we can to address injustices and unfairness in these systems and set things right.