Why Jacob can't read? Why black farmers can't farm? : a case study of black farmers exclusion from the agricultural policymaking process
McKelly, Bernadette Alicia
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In recent years, underrepresented small black farmers have become more active in the agricultural policymaking process. No previous studies have focused on how these farmers acquired the knowledge and skills to become key participants in this process. The purpose of this study was to determine how small black farmers acquire knowledge of the agricultural policy process and how these farmers use this knowledge to become active participants in the creation of agricultural policies. The research questions guiding this study were (a) How do small black farmers learn the skills and techniques needed to participate in the federal agricultural policymaking process? (b) What are the current struggles impacting the role that small black farmers play in the agricultural policymaking process? And (c) How do small black farmers view their future participation in the agricultural policymaking process? This study was conducted using the case study research methodology. The case was the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund (Federation/LAF). Data were collected through individual interviews, group interviews, and document analysis. Individual interviews were conducted with the leaders, staff, and farmers who are members of the Federation/LAF. Group interviews were conducted with farmers. The data were analyzed using the constant comparison method developed by Glaser and Strauss (1967) and extended by Strauss and Corbin (1998). Three broad themes emerged from the findings of the data: Learning through Advocacy and Self Motivation; Why Black Farmers Can’t Farm: Identifying the Struggles that Impede Success; and Small Black Farmers’ Access to Agricultural Policymaking: Current Issues and Future Perspectives. The findings of the study resulted in three major conclusions: First, small black farmers possess the skills needed to participate in agricultural policymaking. Second, the major impediments that hindered small black farmers’ progress, in the 1930s-80s, prior to the 1997 Pigford vs. Glickman lawsuit are still obstacles for these farmers today. Third, small black farmers are hesitant to participate in agricultural policymaking because they perceive a lack of representation at the congressional level.