Did the USDA data report that the number of Black farmers increased during the Obama years?

Friday, February 19, 2021
By Gus Fisher

When Thomas Vilsack was Secretary of Agriculture under Barack Obama, he cited 2012 department data noting a 12% gain in the number of Black farmers. Vilsack, who has been reappointed to the post by President Biden, outlined in mid-2016 “big, bold steps to rectify past wrongs” in the government’s treatment of minorities.

In 2017, the department said, the number of Black farm “operators” was up a further 5% from 2012, at 48,697. Black operators represented about 1.3% of all U.S. farmers.

The survey takes place every five years. The Counter, a nonprofit news service, has challenged the accuracy of the 2012 count, noting that it included a 57% “adjustment” to compensate for “undercoverage” and “non-response” in census participants. The Counter says this adjustment led to an overestimate in the actual number of Black farmers.

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