Black Women Legislators Leading in Agriculture Policy
October 22, 2021

Historically, agricultural policy has been made in spaces dominated by rural land-owning, white, male, and conservative voices. That includes state legislatures, where fewer than five percent of legislators are Black women. Far too often, there are limited opportunities for Black women legislators to be at the forefront of policy conversations in agriculture or related legislative committees. That has to change. 

SiX hosted this panel with four Black women state legislators who are leading the conversation to address the vast injustices that have been endured by Black and brown communities in the field of agriculture. Hear about their work to make agriculture more inclusive and change who gets to pass agriculture policy. 

Panelists:

  • Delaware Senator Marie Pinkney
  • Ohio Representative Juanita Brent
  • North Carolina Senator Natalie Murdock
  • Illinois Representative Sonya Harper
  • Moderator: Lauren Bealore, Director of Democracy, SiX

SiX Takeaways:

  1. For generations, agriculture policy impacting Black, brown, and Indigenous communities has been made in rural white, male-dominated spaces. But Black women legislators are stepping into leadership roles on agriculture committees and creating change in the urban and rural communities they represent.
  1. Agriculture is the biggest industry in many states, yet progressives too often don’t prioritize it. Policy-making in the agriculture industry is a huge concern for Black, brown, and Indigenous communities. Everyone eats — so we all have to care about food access, where our food comes from, and how it’s being handled. Much of that work starts at the state level.
  1. In many Black and brown communities, farming has been gentrified, monopolized, and appropriated — and the same is true in agriculture committees. The farming practices in the farm-to-table and regenerative agriculture movements have origins in Afro and Indigenous communities and cultures. Despite this, many of the issues Black and brown communities face are not reflected in agriculture and food policy-making. 
  1. Agriculture policy is at the intersection of many other issues in Black and brown communities, including equity, racism, economics, and health. The future of Black and brown communities depends on agriculture in many ways. Agriculture is the number one job producer in some states and effective and equitable agriculture policy is a way for Black and brown communities to create jobs and build a sustainable economy while providing healthy food for community members. 
  1. Black women legislators have had to work for years to  educate white-male-dominated agriculture committees about the agricultural issues impacting their communities and to center Black and brown voices. For some, this education (about food deserts, urban farming, food access issues, and so much more) has laid the foundation to be able to tackle issues like race and equity when working toward policy solutions.
  1. There are many opportunities for Black women legislators to engage in agriculture policy issues that impact their communities. The panelists encouraged others to fight to be on the committees that oversee agriculture policy in their states. These legislators are disrupting the space and centering the voices and needs of their Black and brown communities while doing it. Join SiX’s CROP and Democracy cohorts for support along the way.  

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