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News Tip: Duke Expert Says Farm Bill Only Helps Wealthy Farmers

Disproportionately wealthy farmers benefit from the accumulated wealth of generations of exclusionary subsidies displacing poor, black and Latino farmers

Tuesday afternoon the U.S. Senate passed the long-awaited farm bill which reauthorizes hundreds of programs for the agricultural, dairy and food industries.

Gabriel RosenbergAssistant professor of the practice, Duke University Women's Studies Program (202) 294-6344; gabriel.rosenberg@duke.edu researches the history of gender roles in U.S. agriculture after the Civil War. His focus is on how food has historically been produced, from farm to table. He is the author of "Breeding the Future: 4-H and the Roots of the Modern Rural World." He teaches a course on "Food, Farming and Feminism."Quote:"While not all farmers today are wealthy, the farmers who will collect the crop insurance subsidy in this year's Farm Bill will be disproportionately wealthy. A tiny wealthy fraction of all farmers will collect around a third of the total subsidy.

"Affluent farmers aren't just benefiting from today's regressive crop insurance subsidy. They're also frequently benefiting from the accumulated wealth of generations worth of exclusionary, regressive subsidies. Agriculture has been among the most heavily state-subsidized sectors of the American economy since the early nineteenth century. White, landed farmers collected the subsidy in the form of land, seeds, infrastructure, educational institutions, loans and, after 1933, subsidized crop insurance and direct payments. Poor and non-white farmers were systematically excluded from most of these programs.

"At such a competitive disadvantage, poor, black and Latino farmers were displaced from land and later re-employed as hired hands, migrants, tenants or as industrial and retail workers in the town and city. It's within this vital context that we need to view the deplorable decision, also included in the Farm Bill, to cut funding that will help poor people buy food and heating."