Socially disadvantaged farmers, a group that includes racial and ethnic minorities, women, and producers with limited resources, are more likely to operate smaller farms and face greater financial stress than the white farmers who dominate U.S. agriculture, said a USDA report.
About 9% of the 2 million American farms “were operated by at least one SDA [socially disadvantaged] operator,” said the report, which tracked up to four operators per farm.
“Perhaps not surprisingly, we found that SDA, women-only, and LR [limited resource] farms operated fewer acres and earned lower net farm income on average, and were less likely to specialize in cash grains, receive payments from government farm programs, and hold loans for their farm business than NH (non-Hispanic) White, men-only, and high-sales farms, respectively,” said the Economic Research Service report.
The report’s authors used data from the annual Agricultural Resource Management Survey, which provides more detail than the Census of Agriculture, conducted every five years. The report said a larger share of socially disadvantaged farmers were at financial risk than white-run farms, based on four formulas for measuring financial health.
Including off-farm earnings, the median household income of limited-resource farmers, $10,395, and socially disadvantaged farmers, $56,977, was below the U.S. median of $67,521 in 2020, as well as below the median income of white farm households. “Thus, in addition to having lower farm income and fewer assets than other farms and farm households, these under-served producer households were worse off than the median U.S. household,” said the report.
Since 1990, the USDA has recognized several groups of farmers as historically under-served by USDA programs. Socially disadvantaged farmers include Black, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Hispanic, women, and limited-resource farmers with household income below the poverty threshold for a family of four.
The USDA report, “An Overview of Farms Operated by Socially Disadvantaged, Women, and Limited Resource Farmers and Ranchers in the United States,” is available here.