2018 Farm Bill Attacks Black Life & Dignity

 
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Attempts by the GOP to reduce the assistance and key food security measures provided in the Farm Bill is an assault on Black life and dignity. Through the proposed legislation, members of Congress attempt to defund and ultimately demoralize food systems in the most vulnerable communities. Such attacks on food access in Black communities are attacks on the most basic elements of human life and dignity: the power to produce and distribute food sustainably and to consume food in culturally dignified ways.

The National Black Food & Justice Alliance opposes anyone who seeks to set back Black and Brown and economically oppressed communities in the fight for food sovereignty. We are firm in our political commitment to support food assistance programs as harm reduction mechanisms against a system of grave economic inequality; we commit to fighting for Black life by minimizing the suffering of hunger right now. More deeply, we commit to the long-term struggle for food sovereignty as an end to designed scarcity and desperation; in this way, we commit to fighting for Black dignity.

Food Security & the Struggle for Black Life

The National Black Food & Justice Alliance is an alignment of Black-led organizations resisting White Supremacy and anti-Black racism by fighting for food sovereignty, growing self-determining food economies on livable, liberated land. As such, we understand the disregard for food assistance programs stated by the Trump Administration and the supporters of the proposed Farm Bill to be an expression of anti-Black racism.

The current draft of the 2018 Farm Bill contains poorly veiled efforts to limit access to food assistance programs for those in economically oppressed communities. The 2018 Farm Bill proposes increases in the work-requirement age limit (from 49 years of age to 59 years of age), increases in weekly required work hours over time (an increase of 20 hours per month), and more unreasonable cutoffs and penalties for job-training enrollment requirements. Such draconian legislation (clearly positioned to reduce enrollment in programs to which, by definition, the public are entitled) are rooted in a shameless contempt for Black and Brown and economically oppressed people.

The false equivalence of government assistance to a handout, for those who occupy a central role in every sector of food production and preparation, exposes an erroneous and a calloused perception of Black and Brown communities-- of food workers, of those who survive daily labor exploitation, wage depression, and systemically imposed job insecurity-- as worthless and lazy. Yet, in struggling daily for our own dignity and sovereignty, we embody work ethic and worth that transcend exploitable “productivity”.

Data shows that those who make the least money pay the highest percentage of their income in taxes like sales tax, local and state taxes, and social security. Still, a stubborn fiction is dispatched in political debate-- one of Black and Brown people “taking” from entitlement programs which the Government itself promises to its public-- in order to disparage those who seek to take the government up on its most basic promises to promote life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Through unforgiving work-requirements and penalties and the blanket defunding of critical food security programs, this 2018 Farm Bill weaponizes hunger, malnutrition, and devastating health outcomes against the most vulnerable communities in this country.

Without transformative amendments, the current draft of the Farm Bill reflects a desire of many in American society and government to dehumanize and even depopulate Black communities, through designed food scarcity.

From Food Security to Food Sovereignty: The Struggle for Black Dignity

Black and Brown, economically oppressed communities use programs like the Value Added Producer Grant, the Farmers Market Promotion Program, the Local Food Promotion Program, and the National Organic Cost Share Program to build and activate our own self-determined food economies and systems. Defunding programs meant to promote the development of local, urban, and organic food production would serve to break economic power and cultural dignity through food production in poorer, predominantly Black and Brown communities. In the face of economic crises, we in Black and Brown communities have sustained ourselves through local food markets, urban and rural agriculture, and increasingly interconnected food systems.

As an alliance of food producers, distributors, educators, and community organizers, we understand the blatant hypocrisy of a government that defends cuts to food assistance by claiming to be invested in self-reliance, while destroying the very programs that Black communities have been using to leverage sovereignty in self-determined food systems. Programs meant to increase food production in food insecure communities address systemic inequities which were imposed on disenfranchised communities. Funding for good food purchasing, farmer training, and local food programs neither constitutes a handout from a government that favors economic freedom in Black communities nor reliance on a system built without exploited, uncompensated Black labor; no such systems have ever existed in America.

We demand that Congress address hunger with immediate action to reduce harm in our communities, while also correcting the systemic causes of hunger. Those who claim to love justice and those sworn to uphold it must roll back systemic barriers to economic freedom through food production. True food justice means reinvesting in the collective brilliance of Black communities who survive centuries of exploitation by modeling local food production, food security, sovereignty, sustainability, and economic freedom for all in our lifetimes.

We call on all governments, whether federal, state, or local, and all NGOs to:

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