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.