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Working Group Aims to Improve Diversity and Inclusion in Connecticut Agriculture

  • Working group to be administered by Connecticut Department of Agriculture looks to promote diversity and inclusion in the state’s agricultural sector
  • Group will identify barriers and make recommendations on engaging farmers who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color
  • More than 98 percent of the state’s agricultural producers were White in the most recent available USDA data

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

In an effort to make its agricultural sector more diverse and equitable, Connecticut is launching a working group aimed at engaging current and future farmers who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color.

Governor Ned Lamont announced the creation of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group, which will be administered by the Department of Agriculture. The group will work to identify barriers to the sector and make recommendations on how to better support diversity and inclusion among the state’s agricultural producers. Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz says expanding access to agricultural opportunities can also help with efforts to fight food insecurity in underserved communities.

According to USDA data for 2020, Connecticut has 5,500 farming operations. As of 2017, 98.6 percent of the state’s agricultural producers were White, with just 25 Black farmers at that time. The statistics are in line with national numbers, where 95 percent of farmers are White and just 1.3 percent are Black.

Black farmers have historically faced systemic racism and other challenges that have vastly eroded their prominence in agriculture. According to the Washington Post, the number of Black farmers in the United States has shrunk from over a million a century ago to just 45,000 today.

Black farmers have also lost approximately 90 percent of their land in this period, and currently represent about one-quarter of disadvantaged farmers. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan includes $5 billion in debt relief for Black farmers as well as additional support such as grants and training.

Connecticut Agriculture Commissioner Bryan Hurlburt said the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group’s work will include “identifying resource gaps, providing support for businesses to grow, and supplying a connection to markets.” It will conduct its work over the next year and a half.

The group consists of a 12-person main group as well as five subgroups focusing on the issues of access to capital and financial planning; access to secure land tenure; access to education and training; access to resources, infrastructure, and business planning; and market access and diversification. Each member of the main group will serve on a subgroup, with up to 20 additional members filling out the subgroups.

Farmers, service providers, nonprofits, educators, and other interested parties are encouraged to apply to serve on the group. Applications will be accepted through April 4, and appointments will be made in mid-April.

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