In NC, Black Family Farms Grapple with Climate Change
Thursday, October 20, 2022
Two sisters running a small vegetable farm in Bladen County said they are struggling to keep their business profitable in a changing climate.
According to a report from the Environmental Working Group, insurance payments to farmers for crop losses from extreme droughts and flooding have nearly tripled since the mid-1990s.
Michelle Wright, co-owner of the 11-acre Farmers B.A.G. farm, said weather patterns in eastern North Carolina are increasingly unpredictable.
"We're looking at changes in the soil; when you don't have enough rain, it has an impact just as much as having too much rain," Wright explained. "If there's too much cold weather, it can kill your crops."
More Black farmers now say climate change is posing financial challenges to their businesses, alongside historical barriers like debt relief and access to credit.
Hundreds of extreme weather events have cost the U.S. more than two-trillion dollars between 1980 and 2022, according to a NOAA report.
Brielle Wright, co-owner of the farm and Michelle's sister, said small farmers need more financial assistance for high tunnels to protect crops from severe weather, and resources for year-round or extended-season farmers markets.
She pointed out Black farmers in particular may not be aware of opportunities which could help them navigate a "new normal."
"Making sure farmers are educated and have the knowledge about Farm Service Agency, different USDA agencies, so they can have a farm number and be prepared with insurance," Wright outlined. "And have more information on risk management for their farms."
Vicki Lee Parker-High, executive director of the North Carolina Business Council, said she is hopeful the influx of environmental-justice funding from the Inflation Reduction Act will help chip away at the challenges for business owners of color.
"Black-owned businesses have created over 1 million jobs and generated over $165 billion in revenue," Parker-High reported. "Therefore, environmental issues that hurt Black businesses hurt the entire Black community, as well as the economy as a whole."
The legislation signed into law this year by President Joe Biden also provides funding for so-called "smart" agriculture practices, which the White House said will help North Carolina's more than 45,000 farms develop new farming techniques for a changing climate.
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