Welfare By Any Other Name Won’t Save Rural Black America

Published June 22, 2007

The Chicago Tribune recently ran a Washington Post story about USDA racism in its allocation of farm assistance resources in Mississippi (“Racial disparity found in aid to stricken state,” June 20). The article identified large agricultural subsidies and the fact that black farmers receive less of these federal funds. It also confirmed the USDA’s lack of investment in “dirt-poor, majority black Delta towns.”

It is disingenuous to encourage poor rural blacks to wait on “rural welfare” to replace agribusiness subsidies as a remedy to landless poverty.

America is no longer an agriculture economy with 70 percent of its citizens living on the land as in the Depression era, when this farm policy was crafted. Today, less than 2 percent of our population resides on functioning farms. And the black farmers represent a small portion of that percentage.

Agriculture subsidy policies were designed to save the family farms by price supports and subsidies. This encouraged overproduction. Since overproduction became the key to American agriculture, large corporate farms found favor because they produce more. The unintended consequence has been dwindling federal support for all small farms, black, white, or Hispanic.

A bitter envy has developed as small and minority farmers salivate at the size of corporate welfare checks given out to agribusiness and wonder when the welfare dime will swing back their way. This year, Congress may reform the subsidy regime.

Private development , expansion of entrepreneurship, and diversification of the rural economy by industrialization represent better strategies for elimination of poverty in the dirt-poor areas of the Southland.

Ralph W. Conner ([email protected]) is local legislation manager for The Heartland Institute.