National Family Farm Coalition | 6 March 2023
New report highlights black farmer land loss and discrimination in Mississippi Delta
A new report, “Selling Out the Delta,” was released today by the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) in collaboration with researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) and NFFC member organization Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund (FSC/LAF). The report details corporate land investments in the Mississippi Delta region, and ways that the growth of speculative farmland ownership exacerbates barriers that farmers face accessing and maintaining land in the region.
Corporate investors looking to turn a profit are attracted to the Mississippi Delta by its fertile soils, plentiful water, transportation access, historically lower land prices, and other resources. The report exposes increasing land investment activity within the Delta region by institutional investors using aggressive methods to cash in, frequently at the expense of farmers in crisis.
UCSC researcher Elsa Calderon said, “Investors are taking advantage of landowners’ economic vulnerability, using ‘quick cash now’ offers to convince them to sell their most valuable asset. Not only does this remove Black farmers and their knowledge from the land, it removes options for families to pass that land, knowledge, and wealth from one generation to another.”
Corporations and wealthy individuals are pouring money into already-competitive farmland markets as land costs and consolidation trends climb across the country. The USDA reports that one acre of farmland now fetches a national average price of $3,800 – the highest since the 1970s. These prices are unattainable for many farmers, especially beginning, young, and farmers of color.
The researchers gathered original testimonies and lived experiences from Black farmers in the Mississippi Delta, outlining how discriminatory lending and limited access to legal services has led to their precarious land tenure status. This is especially apparent through the complicated system of heirs’ property, which the Federation estimates to comprise 60% of Black-owned land.
Cornelius Blanding, Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund Executive Director, said, “There are many ways that systemic racism materializes in agriculture. One of those ways is evident in the loss of land in our communities. Between 1910 and 1997, Black farmers lost roughly 90% of the farmland they owned. The lack of legal protections for heirs’ property greatly exacerbates this problem and makes it very easy for investors to purchase Black-owned land at bargain prices.”
The report outlines recommendations to clarify, strengthen, and enforce regulations that curb extractive land investments while supporting farmers and rural communities.
NFFC National Program Coordinator Jordan Treakle said, “Improving farmland access for historically underserved producers is a top policy priority for the National Family Farm Coalition. This year’s Farm Bill is a key opportunity to protect family farmers from losing out to corporate consolidation in our food system. Without effective land rights protections, the nation’s most productive farmland and resources will continue to fall into the hands of corporate investors and the wealthiest individuals, far out of reach to farmers and rural communities.”