Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Pigford Perspectives II

Apparently the theory of the original lawsuit is the disproportionate decline in black farmers must be the result of racism. From the EWG's 2004 report:
"In part due to lack of equal access to USDA loans, the number of farms operated by African Americans has declined dramatically over the past 20 years, plummeting from 54,367 in 1982 to just 29,090 in 2002."[My emphasis added.]
I'm not aware of, and can't google up, any reports on the reasons for the decline so there's no way to know whether racism is 99 percent of the cause or some lesser proportion. [Side note: The academic and government researchers I ran across in my casual googling seem usually to ignore race in their analysis. That may be a real bias--seldom asking the question of whether there is a real difference based on race. Or it may just be my incompetence at searching. ]

Let's say the drop in farms is caused as follows:

50 percent due to lack of equal access to USDA credit. A followup question is what caused the lack of access. I'll leave that for other posts.

50 percent due to other causes, such as:
  • general trend of declining farm numbers
  • smaller farms (i.e., blacks may have had smaller farms to begin with, and smaller farms may have failed more often than large farms)
  • less capital (a variant of the "smaller farms" argument)
  • poorer land (i.e., when black farmers were acquiring land from 1865 to 1920, they may have been less able to buy the good land)
  • less and poorer education (I'm assuming fewer black farmers went to college and perhaps those that did got a poorer education than their white counterparts--would you rather go to Texas A&M or Delta State?)
  • bias among the bankers (of course, Farmers Home/FSA was supposed to be the lender of the last resort)
  • bias among suppliers--the general agribusiness community (might particularly include co-ops, which have been important in farming. When did many white southern co-ops open their doors to blacks?)
  • poorer location (a variant of the poorer land, but this would consider things like access to railroads and roads to get crops to market, attractiveness to labor, etc.)
After listing all the causes, I'm not willing to rate the USDA/FSA problems as 50 percent of the cause. Are you?

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