Soul Fire Farm is one of over 70 black-led food and farming groups that signed onto a letter regarding Justice for Black Farmers recently, advocating for changes in the way the USDA operates in order to address racists policies and practices. It demonstrates how we can and should apply the question 'Whose Voice is Missing?' to impact data.
"... While Black farmers often face many of the same challenges as other marginalized farmers, there are critical differences between different historically underserved communities. Treating all marginalized farmers as a homogeneous group ignores critical differences between us.
USDA has used terms such as “socially disadvantaged” and “historically underserved” to avoid releasing data on Black farmers and other individual racial and ethnic groups. The share of lending dollars going to Black farmers decreased during former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s term, but his administration hid that fact by refusing to release lending data by race or ethnicity. Meanwhile, they erroneously implied that lending to farmers of color had gone up, using data showing an increase in lending to “socially disadvantaged” farmers and ranchers. Data obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests later showed that this increase was solely the result of increased lending to white female operators. This is just one example among many.
Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx, new, LGBTQ, and female farmers are not interchangeable. We urge you to ensure that USDA stops treating us as such. All programs and initiatives to address discrimination or increase opportunities for farmers of color should have race-specific benchmarks. USDA should also be required to release program data annually by race, ethnicity, and gender...."
excerpt from the letter dated August 31, 2019