Arkansas Delta Informer Staff – June 10, 2022 – A research group at Alcorn State University is getting backing from the Walmart Foundation group that has committed to contribute $100 million over five years to help address racial disparities in the U.S. highlighted in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing and social unrest in the summer of 2020.
On June 1, Alcorn State’s Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center (SDFR) announced that it received a $900,000 grant from the Bentonville-based foundation through the Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity to support its work to reduce the decline of Black farmers.
As part of the grant, Alcorn State University will collaborate with seven 1890 land grant universities in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas — states with the largest populations of Black farmers. The universities will assess funding sources available to Black farmers and their operations and develop policy recommendations to increase access to capital.
Supporting Black farmers is a key part of the Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity’s work in finance, which focuses on helping Black businesses in retail strengthen and grow their companies.
“Advancing equity for Black farmers starts with access to capital. We are excited to support SDFR’s work to identify the challenges Black farmers face accessing funding and how policy changes can help level the playing field,” said Monique Carswell, director, Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity. “We believe equitable access to capital can help Black farmers advance their enterprises, as well as their families and communities.”
Authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, SDFR was created to be a voice for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and ensure data-driven information is available for Congress and other stakeholders.
“We are excited about the generous contribution from Walmart to SDFR to aid in their impactful work with Black farmers in the state and beyond,” said Dr. Felecia Nave, president of Alcorn. “As we continue to stay true to our mission as a land grant university, this grant will help unlock critical resources for farmers. Small farmers and ranchers play a vital role in local, rural economies like Mississippi.”
This project aims to increase the number of Black farmers successfully operating farms by expanding access to capital. This will require the United States Congress to adopt policy recommendations that drive equity in U.S. Department of Agriculture programs and policies.
“The project’s goal is for Black and other socially disadvantaged farmers to receive equitable and economic integration of USDA programs and policies, including access to capital,” said Eloris Speight, SDFR executive director. “Policy recommendations will be developed and delivered to Congress after completing data analysis and research studies.”
In 1920, there were nearly one million Black farmers in the United States. A century later, there are fewer than 50,000 Black farmers in the United States, according to census data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In addition, the Black-owned farms that remain are smaller on average than other farms, and Black farmers make a fraction of what White farmers make in farm income.
“The research performed by the SDFR is imperative because Black farmers have essentially become endangered in America,” said Speight. “From 1868 to 1934, the federal government gave away 246 million acres of farmland, in 160-acre land grants, to over 1.5 million White families and fewer than 6,000 Black families.”
The work and mission of SDFR are to conduct research, analyze policy and make recommendations seeking to achieve equitable and economic integration of USDA programs and policies for socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers, communities, and rural landowners.
“Since its inception, the SDFR has worked tirelessly to identify how Black farmers have historically and currently fund their farm operations,” said Speight. “The SDFR has long positioned itself as an advocate for the black farmer.”
The grant from Walmart will help Alcorn and other 1890 universities identify the barriers that prevent these farmers from accessing federal loan programs and recommend solutions for eliminating obstacles.
“Interventions are needed to provide equitable financial practices for Black farmers to ensure stability, economic mobility and required intergenerational wealth to advance Black farmers as entrepreneurs and local enterprises,” said Speight.