The Guardian: ‘It’s not fair, not right’: how America treats its black farmers
The Guardian, October 30, 2018: ‘It’s not fair, not right’: how America treats its black farmers
Each year in Louisiana, farmers produce 13m tons of sugarcane, generating $3bn. It is a lucrative crop to produce, due to regulated production limits and tariff-rate quotas that protect US supply from foreign competition. It is, as the American Sugar Cane League proudly notes, “arguably the most successful crop in the history of our state”.
June Provost had the measurements of a successful farmer. He held nearly 4,500 acres and had been farming all his life. At 18, he won the state’s highest-yield contest– – 8,588lb of sugar per acre, 57% above the parish average. In 2008, the Louisiana Farm Bureau deemed him farmer of the year for Iberia parish. June says there were approximately 60 black sugarcane farmers in the area in 1983. By 2000, that number had dwindled to 17. Today, June and Angie count only four.
A lawsuit filed on 21 September by attorneys for the Provosts allege that First Guaranty Bank treated June differently than similarly situated white borrowers – violating on eight counts the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), the Fair Housing Act, and Louisiana’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.
The month before the mill was to close for the season, Randall Romero, CEO of MA Patout, sent a series of letters and emails to June, accusing him of hauling sugarcane to another mill – an allegation the Provosts deny. He also admitted to singling out June Provost for surveillance based on a rumor that he was hauling sugarcane.
It is not far-fetched, say the Provosts, that in a community so steeped in racism, in an industry that has long discriminated against black farmers, there could have been a concerted effort to remove June Provost from his land and livelihood.