Racial, ethnic and gender inequities in farmland ownership and farming in the U.S.

Abstract

This paper provides an analysis of U.S. farmland owners, operators, and workers by race, ethnicity, and gender. We first review the intersection between racialized and gendered capitalism and farmland ownership and farming in the United States. Then we analyze data from the 2014 Tenure and Ownership Agricultural Land survey, the 2012 Census of Agriculture, and the 2013–2014 National Agricultural Worker Survey to demonstrate that significant nation-wide disparities in farming by race, ethnicity and gender persist in the U.S. In 2012–2014, White people owned 98% and operated 94% of all farmland. They generated 98% of all farm-related income from land ownership and 97% of income from farm owner-operatorship. Meanwhile, People of Color farmers (African American or Black, Asian American, Native American, Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and Hispanic farmers) were more likely to be tenants rather than owners, owned less land, and generated less farm-related wealth per person than their White counterparts. Hispanic farmers were also disproportionately farm laborers. In addition to racial and ethnic disparities, there were disparities by gender. About 63% of non-operating landowners, 86% of farm operators, and 87% of tenant farmers were male, and female farmers tended to generate less income per farmer than men. This data provides evidence of ongoing racial, ethnic and gender disparities in agriculture in the United States. We conclude with a call to address the structural drivers of the disparities and with recommendations for better data collection.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    People from the Philippines may identify themselves as Asian or as Pacific Islander. In 2020, the American Census will classify Filipinos as Pacific Islanders rather than as Asian Americans.

  2. 2.

    Both through the Quick Stats data portal and under recent special tabulations at https://www.nass.usda.gov/Data_and_Statistics/Special_Tabulations/Completed_Tabulations/data-lab-records.php.

Abbreviations

COA:

Census of Agriculture

NASS:

National Agricultural Statistics Services

NAWS:

National Agricultural Worker Survey

POC:

Person of Color/People of Color

TOTAL:

Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land survey

USDA:

United States Department of Agriculture

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Acknowledgements

Thank you to anonymous reviewers for their comments, which have helped strengthen the article immeasurably. Thank you to people who gave feedback on early presentations of the findings, and to those who asked critical questions. Thank you to the activists who have expressed interest in the findings and motivated us to complete the analysis. Thank you to USDA staff at the Pacific Northwest office for attempting to provide us additional data and access to more detailed data.

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Correspondence to Megan Horst.

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Horst, M., Marion, A. Racial, ethnic and gender inequities in farmland ownership and farming in the U.S.. Agric Hum Values 36, 1–16 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-018-9883-3

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Keywords

  • Farming
  • Farmland
  • Equity
  • Racial capitalism
  • Gendered capitalism
  • Food justice
  • Agrarian question