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Black farmers in the South look to stimulus for help with the future

Black Farmers
Posted at 9:11 AM, Apr 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-23 12:20:29-04

PINEY WOODS, Mississippi — Terry Cannon, at age 70, is still as active as you can be on a farm in Piney Woods, Mississippi. He tends to the cattle, grows vegetables and when a tree falls down, he is there to take care of it.

"I’ve lived in rural Mississippi all my life," Cannon said.

"Out here on the farm, we grow tomatoes, zucchini," Cannon added.

But Cannon sees a growing problem: there aren't as many farmers who look like him.

"It’s a dying generation," Cannon said.

DECLINE OF BLACK FARMING

Over a century ago, there were over 1 million Black farmers. The latest numbers from the USDA report there are now around 45,000.

Cannon says a variety of reasons are to blame.

It's easier, in his opinion, for people to work in an office in the city. He also believes some systematic racism has been felt for generations when it comes to government programs for farmers.

"We didn’t have the knowledge of these programs," Cannon said.

A recent study by The Counter, a nonpartisan research group that studies food and farming, found that only 1 percent of Black farmers in Mississippi, where Cannon lives, received any USDA assistance to help with recent trade wars. Fourteen percent of Mississippi farmers are Black.

GOVERNMENT HELP FOR THE FUTURE

Tucked away in the stimulus package passed earlier this year was a major provision to provide economic relief for Black farmers.

The 45,000 or so Black men and Black women farmers now have access to $5 billion to help offset previous wrongs, including assistance with debt relief.

For Cannon, it means the future may not be as dim as previously believed.

Cannon introduced us to Michael Coleman, a 27-year-old Black farmer, who is proud to make this his profession.

"We are here. We just aren’t recognized, Coleman said.

"I really want to make a career out of this, because this is something I love to do."

Coleman hopes more is done to help younger farmers who often struggle to buy land in the future. Coleman believes the $5 billion will mostly help older Black farmers in debt.

"There is probably a kid right now living in the inter-city that wants to farm but he doesn’t have the resources to farm," Coleman said.