Minnesota wants to give more resources to farmers, but only the ones who aren’t white men

A report by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture suggests the state must change "the agricultural landscape that we see today" by providing aid on a racial basis.

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The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has a program apparently designed to provide resources and financial aid to every group of people except white men.

The new members of the “Emerging Farmers’ Working Group” were announced last week. The group is comprised of 19 members selected by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture who will find ways to provide resources to “farmers or aspiring farmers who are women, veterans, persons with disabilities, American Indian or Alaskan Natives, members of a community of color, young, and urban, and any other emerging farmers as determined by the commissioner.”

The working group was first created in 2020 at the request of the Legislature. In a 2020 legislative report on the subject, Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture found that there are fewer minority farmers than white ones in Minnesota. The report says the abundance of white farmers is a result of systemic bias.

“Implicit and structural biases exist at all levels and at all institutions. Taking an anti-racist approach to planning and program development is key for ensuring that existing programs are not implicitly favoring one group over another,” the report claims.

According to the report, the term “emerging farmer” reflects the “diversity and intersectionality of farmers, and the way that barriers affect multiple communities at the same time.”

For example, the report says, a “young, African-American woman interested in farming will likely face a number of systemic barriers, many of which may be similar — and some different — than an older, non-English speaking male immigrant.”

The report claims that in the department’s research, “institutional and systemic racism was cited as a major barrier for minority farmers at every point in their journey.”

It also cites two specific discriminatory policies from the 1800s as a reason that “agricultural opportunity is not equally available to all Minnesotans.” These two policies, “along with many other programs and institutions which gave preference to white, male farmers, have created the agricultural landscape that we see today,” the report says, suggesting that the demographics of farming must be corrected.

At one point the report asserts that the state should not pursue “equality,” which it defines as “equal treatment.” Equal systems provide everybody with the same standards and resources — this is not good enough for progressives who instead want “equity.”

Equity, as described by a graphic in the legislative report, occurs when certain people get more than others, in this case on the basis of race and other factors that have supposedly placed individuals at a disadvantage.

This graphic is included in the Emerging Farmers in Minnesota legislative report. (Minnesota Department of Agriculture/screenshot)

Building off of this work, the Minnesota Legislature approved $150,000 in the 2021 session for the creation of “an emerging farmer office.”

Minnesota’s working group has aims very similar to a Biden administration proposal to provide debt relief to these same “historically underserved” groups. A federal judge blocked this largely race-based aid program in June after legal scholars argued that it discriminated on the basis of race.

U.S. House Democrats have now re-proposed nearly the same exact measure as part of the Build Back Better agenda.