Increasing Diversity of the Farm Population in the United States: An Analysis of Trends and Prospects for Minority Farmers

Samuel K Bediako, Tennessee State University


There have been major structural changes in the United States Agriculture since the 1950s, and U.S. agriculture has shifted from smaller farms to larger farms. These structural changes have had serious negative effects on the minority farm population, especially Black farmers. As U.S. agriculture became mechanized, job opportunities for share croppers and farm laborers declined, forcing Blacks out of farming. Three specific objectives for this study were: (1) To identify, compare and contrast the significant historical trends in number of minority farmers' groups in the United States with focus on black farmers, (2) To develop profile of minority farmers with focus on Black farmers and discuss their problems and future prospects, and (3) To trace progress and related issues of Black farmers and the USDA litigation. Data used for the study were secondary and were collected from Census of Agriculture for various years, university and state government publications. Data collected were tabulated and analyzed using descriptive statistical measures. The results of the analysis indicate that few Black farmers have remained in business since the beginning of the 20th century. Between 1920 and 1997, Black farm population declined by 98 percent, compared to 70 percent decline in all farms and 66 percent decline in White farms during the same period. Other non-white farms during the same period grew by 2 percent. However, between 1997 and 2007, Black farm population grew by 66 percent compared to 15 percent and 13 percent growth for all farms and white farms respectively. The other minority groups also experienced tremendous growth between 1997 and 2007, and notable among them are the Hispanics and Native Americans. Women farm operators also have seen tremendous growth during the last two decades. The problems facing black farmers are complex and grave. Black farms like other small farms are heterogeneous and therefore effective policies and programs should take into accounts the differences that exist among them. There is the need to develop future programs and policies that are need based rather than - production based, and support the implementation of new production systems and increase appropriate training programs.

Subject Area

Agriculture|Agricultural economics

Recommended Citation

Samuel K Bediako, "Increasing Diversity of the Farm Population in the United States: An Analysis of Trends and Prospects for Minority Farmers" (2013). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI1541406.