In the 20th century, Black farmers lost approximately $326 billion worth of acreage, Reuters reports. The loss of land is a major contributing factor to the racial wealth gap in the United States and has caused a contentious relationship between the minority farmers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
"Wealth and land is one way in this country that you're able to grow opportunities for your family," said Dr. Dania Francis, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and lead author of the study. Her findings were published on Sunday in the American Economic Association's Papers and Proceedings journal.
"When huge groups of African Americans were denied that opportunity, it speaks to the intergenerational wealth gap that opened up in part due to this type of land loss," she added.
The study also found a long history of discriminatory USDA lending policies and forced sales of co-owned land called “heirs" property.
Using data from the USDA Census of Agriculture, a study calculated “the compounded value of declining acreage owned by African Americans between 1920 and 1997 in the 17 states where almost all Black-owned farms were documented.”
"This is not just theoretical, but this is empirical," said Dr. Darrick Hamilton, an economics professor at The New School, who also is an author of the study. "These are real losses that occurred."
According to the study, in 1910, Black farmers owned more than 16 million acres of land, according to experts. By 2017, that number had dropped to 4.7 million acres, about 0.5% of all farmland.
As EBONY previously reported, more than a year after President Joe Biden signed the stimulus package, which allocated $4 billion of debt forgiveness for Black and other “socially disadvantaged” farmers who have historically endured decades of discrimination from banks and the federal government, the funds have not yet reached the farmers.
Currently, the legislation is tied up in court after white farmers accused the proposal of being discriminatory.