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Vilsack held the same post for the entirety of the Obama administration and spent the interim years working as a dairy industry CEO.
During his confirmation hearing, he noted that things are different than his initial confirmation 12 years ago and that “the pandemic, racial justice and equity and climate change must be our priorities.” Black farmers and civil rights advocates will be waiting to see if Vilsack lives up to that promise: during his last term, the USDA distorted data to make it look like Black farming was on the rise, when in fact little had changed, and Black farmers received a lower share of loan dollars than under President Bush.
Why This Matters: Farming and agriculture are intertwined in the climate solution, and the Biden administration has promised to make them central to its climate plans. The administration has also made big promises on racial equality.
There’s an opportunity to take on both challenges simultaneously by investing in Black farms and working to correct decades of discrimination at USDA.
As Vilsack’s next round of leadership begins, there’s trust to rebuild as he prioritizes climate and justice as promised.
The racial farm gap: The number of Black farmers in the U.S. was highest in 1920 at nearly 1 million. Decades of racism, violence, and discriminatory lending and landownership practices decimated Black farms nationwide.
Now, that number is closer to 45,000, only 2% of the nation’s farmers, compared to 95% of American farmers who are white.
Black farmers make less than $40,000 on about one-quarter the acreage of white farmers, who bring in over $190,000 annually.
Farming as a climate solution: Agriculture amounts to about a quarter of total U.S. emissions, but methods like regenerative farming could transition farming from a net carbon emitter to a carbon sink. The USDA has the power to create policies that incentivize climate-smart agriculture. Paying farmers for benefits they provide beyond the food they grow — soil health, carbon sequestration, protecting pollinators — would put a dollar value on the many ways farms can help solve the climate crisis and provide a financial boost for farmers emerging from the pandemic.
Yesterday, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators met with President Biden to reach a deal on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure framework. The bulk of the funds will be put toward transportation and “traditional” infrastructure such as bridges, roads, transit systems, and passenger rail. The remainder of the funds will be spent on other infrastructure such […]
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer More than three years after Hurricane Harvey, officials are still clashing over how to disperse aid. In the first $1 billion round of support, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush made some questionable calculations, leaving the hardest-hit communities in its most populous city without a penny in federal aid according to the […]
It’s spring in Paris, they are still struggling with COVID, and yet thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Paris and numerous other French cities to protest climate change. The French legislature is considering a law to impose tougher measures to combat climate change, but many believe the proposals are not sufficient and so they staged marches in Nancy, Toulouse, Rennes, Lyon, Grenoble, as seen in social media posts.
Why This Matters: Because of the Paris Agreement, France is associated with climate change progress.
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