A new era of civil rights? Latino immigrant farmers and exclusion at the United States Department of Agriculture
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In this article we investigate how Latino immigrant farmers in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States navigate United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs, which necessitate standardizing farming practices and an acceptance of bureaucracy for participation. We show how Latino immigrant farmers’ agrarian norms and practices are at odds with the state’s requirement for agrarian standardization. This interview-based study builds on existing historical analyses of farmers of color in the United States, and the ways in which their farming practices and racialized identities are often unseen by and illegible to the state. This disjuncture leads to the increased racial exclusion of immigrant farmers from USDA opportunities. Such exclusions impede the transition to a “new era of civil rights,” as has been proclaimed by USDA leadership. Although efforts to address institutionalized racism on a national level may be genuine, they have failed to acknowledge this schism between rural Latino immigrants and the state, thereby inhibiting a meaningful transition in the fields, and continuing a legacy of unequal access to agrarian opportunities for non-white immigrant farmers.
KeywordsImmigrant farming Race in agriculture Latino farmers United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The authors are grateful to the Goucher College Environmental Studies Department for the opportunity to work together and conduct this research as well as the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics at Syracuse University and the Association of American Geographers (AAG) for continued financial support for this project. They would also like to thank the organizers and participants of the “Race and Rurality in the Global Economy” Workshop at Duke University, where this paper was first presented, as well as Lindsey Dillon and Clare Gupta for comments on earlier versions and feedback from Evan Weissman on the workshop presentation. Most importantly, the authors would like to thank all participants in this study for their time and willingness to discuss their lives and livelihoods with us.
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