Petition 80588

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Rights of African-American Farmers in the US (80588-C1-R235)

Delete current Resolution 235 and replace with:

Since the initial charge from God to till and keep the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15),
farming has been an integral part of humankind’s existence – providing
nourishment for our bodies and a connection with the Creation. As agribusiness
has grown and population centers shifted towards urban areas, the intimate
connection between our food, the hands that harvest it, and God’s Creation has
been strained.
While The United Methodist Church supports “the right of persons and families to
live and prosper as farmers” (Social Principles, ¶162.N), society has failed to fully
value the essential contributions of farmers. This growing disconnect, combined
with long-established patterns of racism in the United States, has created a crisis
among African American farmers.
Over the past 100 years, the number of African American farmers in the United
States has shrunk from over 925,000 to less than 18,000 today. The share of
farmland owned by African American farmers likewise has shrunk from roughly 14
percent to less than 1 percent.
These losses have been accelerated by a lack of access to capital, technical
information and legal resources needed to train and develop agricultural holdings
into stable, income-producing, self-sustaining operations. Although the United
States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is charged with assisting all farmers, a
1997 Report by the USDA entitled, Civil Rights at the United States Department of
, confirmed widespread discrimination within the agency. These
discriminatory practices denied farmers access to loan approval, loan servicing and
farm management assistance.
Despite a landmark class action settlement reached with USDA in 1999 providing a
system of payments for farmers who faced discrimination, the struggle for justice
continues. Many African American farmers were shut out of the settlement process
and thousands of others heard about the settlement only after the deadline for filing
a claim had passed.
In order to ensure justice for all farmers and the preservation of a unique and vital
heritage of rural communities, The United Methodist Church:
1. Reaffirms its support for a settlement aimed at redressing discriminatory
practices by USDA;
2. Calls on USDA to establish a process to re-evaluate pending claims by
African American farmers based on the merits rather than flawed
bureaucratic deadlines;
3. Calls on USDA to establish and enforce strict guidelines on agency
outreach and action to guard against further discrimination;
4. Calls on the United States Congress to fully fund the Minority Farm
Outreach and Technical Assistance Program;
5. And, recognizing the critical need for community, government and
private sector collaboration to help stem the decline of African American
farmland, calls on the General Board of Church and Society and the General Board of Global Ministries to work with community-based organizations such as the Federation of Southern Cooperatives / Land Assistance Fund to care for the needs of African American farmers in the United States.
Social Principles ¶163 A and N