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The USDA Gives Fewer Loans to Women and Minority Farmers, a Government Watchdog Finds

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Farmers harvest corn near Burlington, Iowa.

It’s been more than a decade since a group of African-American, Latinx, indigenous, and women farmers first sued the United States Department of Agriculture for its discriminatory lending practices in several class action lawsuits.

For years, the department that provides financial support to farmers denied loans to women and people of color at higher rates than their white male counterparts. This discrimination helped ensure that the most profitable producers would be white and male, and nearly drove African-American farmers off their land: Between 1910 and 2007, black farmers lost 80 percent of their farmland, in part because they lacked access to loans or insurance.

According to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, very little has changed. Congress‘ non-partisan investigative agency found that women and minorities—who already comprise a disproportionately small share of U.S. farmers—have a harder time obtaining loans and credit from private lenders and banks regulated by the USDA, and from the department itself. Often, these loans make the difference in whether a farmer can afford to keep an operation running, or whether beginning farmers—often recent immigrants—can break into the business.

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