By Lesley Green-Rennis
- The amount of farmland planted with hemp quadrupled in the past year
- Black farmers are a mere 1.4% of the country’s 3.2 million farmers
Demand for CBD-infused products, from honey, tea, and fast food burgers to gummy bears and shampoo are on the rise, thanks to the Farm Bill which made hemp farming legal in the United States. Planting of industrial hemp increased by 368%, outpacing all other crops. Although Black professionals across the country are working to carve out space in this trending industry, Black farmers are struggling to gain a foothold in hemp-based sales, a sector projected by analysts to reach $16 billion by 2025.
Why This Matters: For decades, Black farmers have been treated unfairly by the U.S. government. Black farmland accounts for only 0.4% of U.S. farmland, and sales account for 0.2% of total U.S. agriculture sales. Bias against these farmers in lending has contributed to their small number. There’s also an income gap, with only 2,349 Black farmers running operations that made $50,000 a year or more in 2017, compared with 492,000 white farmers.
Recent advances in technology and public policies aimed at promoting efficient, large scale agriculture will further compound such disparities. Black farmers have limited access to the land, resources, and information networks that enable them to move quickly and meet increasing agricultural demand. As growing hemp becomes more accessible, competition is increasing, and Black farmers are being left behind.
Some agriculture professionals say that because hemp can be cultivated in tight spaces, it is particularly well-suited for Black landowners, who typically have smaller farms. This is an opportunity to bring Black farmers back by providing a profitable resource that can be used for many different things.
Situational Awareness: Hemp has been touted by Democratic and Republican senators as a nationwide lifeline for U.S. farmers. Black farmers need federal and state lawmakers to push for racial parity and the federal government must ensure they have expanded access to land, legal protections are in place to preserve it, along with technical resources for them to thrive.
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