NHA calls for the creation of a new sustainable asset class
Looking back on history, we know that black people were brought to this nation to farm the land as slaves. Agriculture was, of course, a vital part of the story that largely led to our nation’s success through the labor of the black community.
At the turn of the 20and century, black farmers made up 14%, or 218,000, of the nation’s farmers, owning more than 15 million acres of land, according to Marlet. Today, black farmers farm just 0.4%, or about 3 million acres, of the country’s farmland and account for just 0.2% of agricultural sales.
Challenges related to discrimination in the distribution of federal funds, structural barriers that make it harder to access assistance, and the inability to get fair prices for their crops have contributed to this significant decline in black farmers. These challenges have certainly given black landowners pause as they decide whether they can succeed through farming.
In the 1997 class action lawsuit Pigford vs. Glickman, 400 black farmers alleged that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) denied them loans because of racial discrimination. The ruling ultimately resulted in thousands of black farmers being paid up to $50,000 over allegations of discrimination. In 2010, then-President Barack Obama announced an additional $1.25 billion settlement, known as Pigford II, to fund any additional unfiled claims. Native American, female, and Latino farmers also received similar settlements under the Obama administration after Pigford.
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Even if it was a win, it’s not enough.
That’s why it was an honor to serve as a member of the National Hemp Association’s Social Equity Standing Committee. Founded in 2014, the committee’s mission is to expand supportive educational opportunities to communities lacking generational inclusion.
It starts with supporting existing inclusion visionaries, new business owners, leaders, and experienced consultants to improve social, economic, and environmental well-being by fostering education in the thousands of products hemp can produce. These support opportunities have served as a catalyst for concrete equity-focused solutions, such as a curriculum-style hemp education series that comes with our new interactive app.
Our latest partnership opportunity is with Cannabis Health Equity Movement (CHEM) Global Campus Coalition, a consortium of minority innovators in the cannabis industry. With the support of the White House, we are joining forces to train the next generation of hemp leaders and transform communities devastated by the war on drugs. We absolutely believe this can work by partnering with local civic leaders, but perhaps more importantly, by partnering with our Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and community colleges. The goal of this partnership is to help revitalize underperforming Black communities by restoring underutilized land and reinvesting in small businesses, workforce development and Black farmers, while establishing an educational pipeline for success in this rapidly growing, multi-billion dollar hemp industry.
Currently, many farmers are looking for new markets. At the same time, there is also a question within agriculture about how to bring young landowners into farming and agribusiness. This search for new markets, along with a growing concern about climate change, makes hemp a fantastic opportunity – one that can only be fully realized through fairness in policy, regulation and resources, or whatever. is more aptly called social equity. Done right, Social Equity reduces barriers for hemp-ready businesses through decriminalization, removing structural barriers to federal programs, and supporting fair pricing.
Sometimes we see leaders looking at social equity in different ways. The right way to look at equity is to focus on diversity and inclusion, the latter simply being a place at the table where equity equals access. Investing in diversity, coupled with equity opportunities, can lead to agency within the hemp industry for BIPOC companies.
There is no doubt that hemp provides an industry that benefits our environment, our economy and our people. The NHA Social Equity Standing Committee helps lead the way in ensuring benefits for all people.
Faye Coleman, co-founder and CEO of Pure Genesis LLC, a provider of cannabis and hemp-based products, services, advice, and educational programs. She is also a member of the National Hemp Association’s Social Equity Standing Committee. Coleman previously held leadership positions at Kraft General Foods, Campbell Soup, Vlasic Foods International, Home Depot, Target and CVS Pharmacy.