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New Bill Would Change CDFA'S Relationship With Farmers Of Color

Rebecca Plevin
Valley Public Radio
In 2014 Chia Lee and his brother, Teng Lee, are concerned about the drought's impact on their Parlier farm.

A new bill unanimously approved by the Assembly Agricultural Committee Wednesday could significantly alter the way the California Department of Food and Agriculture works with farmers of color. 

The Farmer Equity Act would support minority farmers by adding them to the definition for “Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers” in existing California Food and Agriculture code.  Kristyn Leach is a Korean grower who runs a small vegetable farm in Alameda County. She says the bill gives farmers of color that have been subject to racial, ethnic or gender prejudice a larger say in California agriculture.

“There are disproportionate outcomes in who accesses state funding and who’s able to collaborate with CDFA as it exists," Leach says. "Those barriers play out in terms of who gets to own land versus who kind of remains tenant farmers for most of their careers.”

Democratic Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry authored the bill. Shesays farmers of color earn less money on average and receive 36 percent less in government funding than their white counterparts.

“Basically this will empower the farmers who have been historically disadvantaged by ensuring they will have access to the resources and the things that they need to be successful and the census shows that farmers of color continue to manage farms they earn less money,"Aguiar-Curry says.

The bill would also ensure that the CDFA includes socially disadvantaged farmers in all the steps of creating programs and policies. A position would also be created to support the minority farmers and a report by 2020 would be due on efforts and ways to improve service to both disadvantaged farmers and female farmers in the state. The bill now moves to the Committee on Appropriations.

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