Timeline: Black farmers and the USDA, 1920 to present


The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a long history of discrimination against Black farmers.




1920


USDA records 925,708 Black farm operators – 14 percent of all U.S. farmers.

1933


New Deal legislation to address low crop prices by reducing acres of farmland displaces many Black farmers.

1964


Share of Black farm operators falls to 5.8 percent.

1965


U.S. Commission on Civil Rights finds USDA discriminated against Black farmers when providing loans and conservation payments.

1968


Commission on Civil Rights finds Black farmers continue to face discrimination when seeking farm loans and assistance.

1970


Commission on Civil Rights finds “Discrimination persists in the operation of some Agricultural programs,” noting that “there are also no civil rights staff in the [USDA] field offices.”

1981


USDA report notes that Black and minority farmers are “disproportionately represented in poverty groups” and that these types of farms have less access to needed credit.

1982


Share of Black farm operators falls to 2 percent.

1982


Commission on Civil Rights documents discrimination that led to the decline of Black farmers.

1983


Reagan administration dismantles USDA Office of Civil Rights.

1990


House Committee on Government Operations report finds rampant discrimination in USDA loan programs.

1993


Report by Westover Consultants finds USDA not held accountable for civil rights violations.

1994


U.S. Assistant Attorney General Walter Dellinger files a memo detailing USDA’s authority to award monetary relief to Black farmers.

1995


U.S. General Accounting Office report finds USDA fails to address racial discrimination.

1995


General Accounting Office report finds widespread underrepresentation of minority farmers on county USDA committees.

1996


Consultant D.J. Miller report finds Black farmers do not get fair share of subsidies, disaster payments or loans.

1996


National Black Farmers Association holds demonstration outside the White House.

1997


Share of Black farm operators falls to 0.9 percent.

1997


USDA’s Inspector General documents a “climate of disorder” among civil rights staff.

1997


GAO report on Farm Service Agency cites lack of diversity.

1997


Congressional Black Caucus holds first-ever forum on discrimination against Black farmers.

1997


Black farmers file historic discrimination complaint against USDA.

1997


USDA publishes Civil Rights Action Team Report detailing a long history of racial bias and discrimination by the agency.

1998


USDA report cites the role of the agency’s discrimination in the decline of Black farmers.

1999


John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, brings his mule, Struggle, to Washington, D.C., to protest USDA treatment of Black farmers.

1999


Settlement in Pigford v. USDA reached to pay Black farmers $1.03 billion. More than 22,000 Black farmers seek claims, but only 15,645 receive modest payments. More than 61,000 Black farmers file late claims, but only 2,585 are accepted.

2000


Senate Agriculture Committee holds hearing on discrimination against Black farmers.

2001


Commission on Civil Rights finds Black farmers wait four times longer than white farmers for farm loans.

2001


More than 14,000 USDA discrimination complaints are filed between 2001 and 2008, but USDA finds only one has merit.

2002


Black farmers rally outside USDA.

2002


Share of Black farm operators rises to 1.3 percent.

2002


Black farmers receive $21.2 million in farm subsidies; white farmers receive $8.9 billion.

2004


EWG and National Black Farmers Association issue report on USDA obstruction of Black farmer settlement.

2007


Share of Black farm operators remains at 1.3 percent.

2007


Black farmers receive $38 million in farm subsidies; white farmers receive $10.6 billion.

2007


EWG and National Black Farmers Association issue report on subsidy gap between Black and white farmers.

2008


GAO report details failure to address civil rights claims properly at USDA’s Office of Civil Rights.

2008


House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform holds hearing on discrimination by USDA.

2008


Congress allows Black farmers originally denied payments from Pigford settlement to reopen their claims.

2009


USDA reopens discrimination cases and finds 3,800 of 14,000 have merit but that the statute of limitations has expired. Only 760 cases are addressed.

2010


Boyd drives a tractor around Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers to call for funding for USDA discrimination cases.

2010


South Carolina court rules against USDA in favor of Black farmers who faced discrimination.

2010


USDA Office of Civil Rights seeks extension of statutes of limitation for discrimination complaints but fails to persuade Congress.

2010


Congress secures another $1.25 billion in payments for Black farmers previously denied payments.

2011


The Pigford case’s monitor report highlights USDA’s failure to provide debt relief for Black farmers.

2012


USDA reports that the share of Black farm operators rose to 1.7 percent.

2012


Black farmers receive $64 million in farm subsidies; white farmers receive $8.1 billion.

2014


USDA reports 9 percent increase in the number of Black farm operators.

2016


Share of USDA lending to Black farmers falls to 0.8 percent.

2017


USDA reports that the share of Black farm operators remains at 1.7 percent.

2017


Black farmers receive $59.4 million in farm subsidies; white farmers receive $9.7 billion.

2019


Legal experts find USDA has overstated the number of Black farmers.

2019


GAO report details challenges faced by Black and minority farmers when seeking agricultural loans.

2019


During presidential campaign, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) releases detailed plan to address past and ongoing discrimination faced by Black farmers.

2019


Black farmers and advocates send recommendation to Sen. Warren.

2020


Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduce Justice for Black Farmers Act.

2021


Sen. Raphael Warnock introduces bill to provide debt relief to Black and minority farmers.

2021


GAO finds Black and minority farmers have less access to credit than white farmers.

2021


House provides debt relief to Black and minority farmers.