What percent of Latino farmers and ranchers do Méxicanos make up?
According to agricultural census figures, of the 100,000 Latino farmers and ranchers, 90 percent are of Mexican descent. Their farms today can be as small as a quarter of an acre.
How did Mexicans lose their land after annexation?
Murder was one way. The Texas rangers shot Mexicano farmers for target practice. Language was weaponized too. Documents were in English only, so farmers lost land when they were fooled into signing. In México, women could own property, not so in the US. Mexican women who married Anglos lost all title.
The US Department of Agriculture was set up to help farmers. Black farmers have won a landmark discrimination suit against the department. How have Latino farmers fared under the USDA?
The attitude of the USDA to Latinos has been, “You’re not a farmer, you’re a farmworker!” One example: Access to loans. This access means more to farmers than people in most any other business. You need timely credit with fair terms to purchase equipment, seeds, livestock, and feed. Under the USDA, we’ve seen outright discrimination in who gets loans. We’ve seen payments to farmers of color delayed until the planting season had already begun. The money arrived too late to be of use. A congressional report in 1990 called the USDA’s discriminatory practices a “catalyst in the decline in minority farming.”
Black farmers won a class action suit in Pigford in 1999. A billion dollars has been paid out. Latinos filed a similar case in Garcia. It was denied as a class action, but the USDA has promised that it would give Latinos some relief some way some day. We’ll see. Given their similar treatment, Black and Latino farmers often advocate together.
Do Latino farmers use the same farming techniques as those used by white-owned agribusinesses?
No. Farming is in our DNA, and we use methods tried and true for centuries. Our methods do not rely on chemicals and do not exhaust the soil through mono-cropping. In other words, we don’t gear up for short-term profit over the long-term health of the land.
Your advocacy has won some victories when the federal farm bill gets re-negotiated every five years.