Providing an Equal Opportunity

Providing an Equal Opportunity

Providing an Equal Opportunity. I’m Greg Martin with today’s Line On Agriculture.

Growing up in the Midwest back in the 50’s & 60’s it was rare to see anyone of a different color or ethnicity. The closest thing I could even relate too was differences between Methodists, Presbyterians and Catholics. But that was life back then. Today even though agriculture strives to be a color blind industry providing equal opportunity for those who want to farm, a very low percentage of minorities are actually in the profession. As the nation celebrates the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this year, the most recent Census of Agriculture shows the actual number of minority farmers and ranchers in Oregon is extremely low, according to Chris Mertz of the Oregon Agricultural Statistics Service.

MERTZ:  While Oregon is predominately a state with around 97 percent white operators, we carry about three percent of farmers of different races- American Indian, black farmers, and Asian farmers.

Specifically, the percentage of black farmers and ranchers in Oregon is about two-tenths of a percent of all operators. Still, the number is actually increasing.

MERTZ: The 2007 census, we reported or had farmers report, 80 different farm operators reported they were black operators. That's up from 47 in 2002 and, I believe it was somewhere in the twenties in 1997.

Other racial and ethnic minorities showing a little bit of gain this past census include American Indian, now with more than 13-hundred operators in Oregon, and Asian-Americans, now with 506 operators. The number of Hispanic or Latino farmers and ranchers actually dropped this past census to about 16-hundred despite the rapid rise in Oregon's Hispanic population. Mertz says even though the percentage of minority farm operators in Oregon is about three percent, it has gone up while the number of farms overall has gone down.

MERTZ: We actually had a drop in total farm operators in the state. But as a percentage, folks of non-white farm operators did increase.

Mertz says several USDA agencies and programs recognize the need to assist minorities interested in farming or ranching.

MERTZ: Risk Management Agency, the National Resource Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, Rural Development- they all have outreach programs that try to reach out and offer programs and opportunities for farmers from any background, any demographic so they can get started in agriculture.

That’s today’s Line On Agriculture. I’m Greg Martin on the Northwest Ag Information Network.


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