Reparations have been a hot-button issue long before I was born, and will most likely continue on that path for a very, very long time. Before I get too in-depth into this article, I want to make one thing very clear; when it comes to reparations I am completely neutral towards the argument. On both intellectual and emotional levels, I have yet to come to an internal resolve. Thankfully, that's not what this piece is meant to address. Rather, I wanted to look at the fact that the Democratic party has repeatedly admitted over many decades that both legal and societal influences have marginalized black communities in a lot of different ways, and have made it a point in using the facts to show these disparities. Whether you agree with reparations or not, they are inherent in the recently signed Covid Stimulus package, but in reality, they do nothing to fix the source of the problem.
Written By: Anton Sawyer
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First off, the reparations term is applicable here in the sense that most of what has been written about it has used either that terminology or stressed the racial slant of the bill. Even the recent title of a Washington Post article, "Relief bill is most significant legislation for black farmers since Civil Rights Act, experts say" is pretty evident. Earlier in 2021, on an interview with Axios on HBO, President Joe Biden‘s senior advisor, Cedric Richmond, confirmed that the White House plans “to start acting now” on reparations for African-American citizens. "We have to do stuff now to improve the plights, status, and future empowerment of black people all around the country." This portion of the stimulus definitely does that whereby $5 billion would go to farmers of color, who have lost 90% of their land over the past century because of systemic discrimination and a cycle of debt. I can see where this financial appropriation would come from. A century ago, there were almost 1 million black farmers in America, representing 14% of U.S. farmers. By 2017, the last agricultural census, the number had dwindled to about 45,500, which is only 1.3% of the total number of producers. Black-operated farms accounted for only 4.7 million acres of farmland, 0.5% of the total. When you add in the fact that almost all of President Donald Trump’s $28 billion bailouts for those affected by the China Trade War went to white farmers, you can see that there is systemic racism here involved. The issue I have with President Biden's handling of the situation is in the fact that whether through this stimulus package, or his Executive Actions, none of it is legitimately trying to stop the issues at the source.
As we know, the tariffs of ex-President Trump were a complete disaster for the farming community at large. Yes, a majority of the bailout went to white farmers, but there wasn't any farmer that dodged every impact of them. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said of the Trump tariffs in 2019, “China’s announcement that it will not buy any agricultural products from the United States is a body blow to thousands of farmers and ranchers who are already struggling to get by. In the last 18 months alone, farm and ranch families have dealt with plunging commodity prices, awful weather, and tariffs higher than we have seen in decades."
The impact was drastic. Total American agricultural exports to China were $24 billion in 2014 and fell to $9.1 billion in 2019, according to the American Farm Bureau. Because of these plunges, there had to be a federal subside done at once. Trump, recognizing he needed the farmer vote in 2020, threw money at the problem. A National Foundation for American Policy analysis concluded The Trump administration gave more taxpayer dollars to farmers harmed by the administration’s trade policies than the federal government spends each year building ships for the Navy or maintaining America’s nuclear arsenal. The spending on farmers was also higher than the annual budgets of several government agencies the report showed also.
It made sense to have all these subsidies happening during 2020 because of Covid. This fact, coupled with the tariffs, the government responded by pouring historic amounts of taxpayer dollars into the sector. In 2020 a record $46 billion were paid in direct farm subsidies, accounting for almost 40% of the industry’s earnings last year. But with the number of Covid infections and deaths over the first few months of 2021 in decline, eventually, agriculture is going to make a comeback. Projections by the Agriculture Department expect farmers in 2021 to earn $11.8 billion more from selling crops than they did the year prior. Livestock receipts are also projected to climb, by $8.6 billion. Yet, a month into his presidency, Joe Biden has indicated he’s in no hurry to undo the punitive trade measure his predecessor placed on China. Biden has announced no policy changes so far, and none of the 32 executive orders thus far involve China or trade. When you take into consideration the racial bias that has already been present in the system for the last century, add it into this tornado of destruction from the Trump-era trade policies, you can see how all the money in the world isn't going to fix the core problem. It's like the saying "dry drunk." Sure, the person may not be drinking, but unless they fix their issues at the core, it's only going to be a matter of time before that monster rears its ugly head once again.
Outside of stopping the Trump tariffs, I don't know what the solution will be to end this racism that is inherent in the agricultural community at large. I'm not sure if there should be special grants, maybe through the NAACP or something? Perhaps we as a society should invest in community farming projects in the predominantly black inner-cities and use the produce that's harvested to go to their communities and help foster the idea that food and community are inseparable from an early age? There are as many solutions are there are problems. It is pretty clear that until the top of the political food chain makes some serious changes from within, there will be two constants.
Until the Trump-era tariffs are rolled back, the financial burden is going to fall on the middle-class completely—no matter your color.
And minority communities are going to keep getting pushed out of farming, perhaps for good.
Neither one of these options are acceptable. Given the liberals' position of majority right now, they really should be asked why these two options are the only ones they are allowing with their actions.
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