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National Young Farmers Coalition 2020 Land Policy Report

Chrys Ostrander

Cover of Young Farmers ReportFrom the National Young Farmers Coalition 2020 Land Policy Report

"Finding secure access to land is the number one barrier preventing a generation of growers from entering the field. Land is also at the root of racial equity, food sovereignty, economic prosperity, public health, and the climate crisis. As we address these issues, land must be part of the conversation...

"The construct of land ownership has been deployed to dispossess Indigenous people of their land for centuries, and is tied to ongoing discrimination against Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. The result is immense inequity in land ownership. This history must guide us as we envision a more equitable future for farming...

"At Young Farmers, our vision is that power and wealth will be returned to communities of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color that have faced historic and ongoing discrimination and dispossession of land, and that high-quality farmland with appropriate resources will be available, accessible, and affordable in an equitable way to all working farmers in the United States, with the security they need to achieve their farming goals. We imagine a future where land access is no longer a barrier that prevents young people from building a vibrant and resilient agricultural system oriented towards communal wellbeing...

"For Indigenous people, the theft of land has been constant since European settlers came to this continent. This loss has been disproportionately concentrated on high-quality agricultural soils, and has taken place through violence, broken treaties, forced migration, and explicit government policy. 58 59 60 For AfricanAmerican communities, lack of access to land ownership—including the counteraction of a policy proposal to provide land to freed slaves after Emancipation—led to legacies of sharecropping and tenant farming that prevented these farmers from building equity in property.61 Despite this, many Black farmers succeeded in purchasing property, but discriminatory lending practices and ingrained racism at USDA offices caused significant land loss over the ensuing century.62 Japanese-American farmers experienced land loss as a result of discriminatory policies and forced internment during WWII.63 64 Latinx individuals were brought to the fields of the U.S. through the Bracero program and have formed the backbone of agricultural production ever since, yet land ownership has been out of reach for the majority of these farmers...

"Farmland is a highly desirable asset for more than just agriculture. As developers, investors, technology companies, and individuals looking for a rural residence all compete with farmers for acreage, the cost of land is steadily becoming disconnected from its value for agricultural production.67 68 69 70 This trend is strongest around urban areas, precisely where the most profitable market opportunities exist for new farmers."

The National Young Farmers Coalition proposes the following principles to help guide policy design and
implementation to begin to remedy the land access crisis (these are explained in more detail in the report):

1. Acknowledge the role that policy has played in creating and perpetuating inequities in our current food system.
2. Support and practice land rematriation for Indigenous communities.
3. Center farmers and farm workers in the policy making process.
4. Value farmland as the basis of food sovereignty, ecological health, and community well-being, rather than simply as a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder.
5. Equity for farmers.
6. Protect farmland for producers. 
7. Facilitate pathways to appropriate and secure land tenure that enable farmers to build equity
8. Support existing land stewards in transitioning off the land [retiring]. 
9. Support farm viability. 
10. Expand access to financing. 
11. Value the critical role that farmers and farmland play in responding to the climate crisis.
12. Invest in local food systems. 
13. Facilitate farming and access to land in urban areas. 
14. Tailor solutions and expand opportunity. 
15. Engage in collaborative efforts.  

The report then goes on to list 43 specific, actionable steps that should be implemented now. Please read them and consider contacting your congressional delegation, state legislators as well as your local decision-makers and urge them to enact these policies. We can no longer wait for action. We must start taking action.

December, 2020