Historically, farmers and ranchers who are Black, Indigenous or people of color have faced systemic discrimination from state and federal agriculture institutions. In an effort to better serve their farmers of color, advocates and legislators partnered in California to pass the Farmer Equity Act, which created policies at the State Department of Food and Agriculture to ensure that their state agricultural agencies are accounting for farmer equity throughout the agency. Now, three years after the bill was enacted into law a new department has been developed to ensure its implementation. Along the way there have been some challenges, some successes and a lot of lessons learned that may be of interest to other states considering similar action. We recently had a discussion about California’s Farmer Equity Act with experts who talked about some the challenges and lessons learned. If you are a legislator or staff who missed the discussion, you can email us to get a recording.
Here are SiX Main Takeaways from that Discussion:
1. The farmers who most need the support of the Farmer Equity Act don’t always have groups representing them in the State House. Be sure to look outside of the normal agricultural, trade and commodity associations to identify organizations to be at the table when creating and passing the bill. Farmers markets are a great place to start and SiX can help you find those farmers if you need support!
2. Everyone can work on Farmer Equity. You don’t need to be from a farming background or a rural legislator to take the lead. Food is a great issue to bring people together and connect urban and rural legislators.
3. There are so many barriers of entry into farming for beginning or marginalized farmers. The California Farmer Equity Act ensures that small farmers, farmers of color and non-English speaking farmers are afforded the same access to resources at the California Department of Food and Agriculture as white farmers.
4. Implementation is essential. It often takes time to get it right and advocacy organizations and legislators must hold agencies accountable to ensure that it is done well.
5. Remember, always ensure that socially disadvantaged farmers are at the table throughout the process—from creating legislation to seeing it passed. Don’t bring them in after the fact.
6. There is a lot of enthusiasm around this legislation and Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry, Representative Harper and SiX want to help you. If you are interested in working on a Farmer Equity bill in your state, let us know and are happy to pull together a working group to support you in your effort.