The United States of America is a nation that has great diversity in terms of race and ethnicity. This kind of diversity brings in some effects in terms of resource use. This research paper is going to answer the question; do public policies reduce or enhance racial inequality in agricultural and environmental affairs? It is going to be established that public policies have enhanced racial inequality in this regard.
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Racial discrimination in agriculture and the environment
According to Peoria,(6), “there is a direct relationship between the persistence of environmental racism in farm work and the political, legal, and economic conditions that maintain farmworkers in a state of labor repression.” This implies that the unequal trends in environmental protection, as well as unequal exposure to environmental dangers, emanate from the collective effects of several conditions and these conditions are economic conditions, political conditions, and legal conditions.
The public policies and laws that are put in place that give support to the farm labor contractor system give limitations to the capacity of the farmworkers to organize themselves to protect their rights (West 13). The immigrant status, which has not been documented, of a large number of farm workers, weakens, even more, these farmers’ capacity to deal with the injustice challenges that face them in the agricultural place of work. The absence of the legal frameworks or the frameworks that are weak for organizing unions, attaining collaborative rights for bargaining, and the right to protest is the greatest grave barriers to the achievement of environmental justice for these workers (Majka and Majka). This implies that as long as the farmworkers are still defenseless and unorganized, they will still have limited ability to deal with the environmental racism in their place of work as well as in the places they live.
According to Schelhas (15), “the Civil Rights Action Team of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) described a number of ways in which discrimination has been evident in government assistance programs for agriculture and natural resources”. Schelhas (15) further points out that several minority farmers gave out reports that taking part in the Farm Service Agency programs has for a long time been blocked by the county office staff that has been discriminatory that did not facilitate sharing of information, made slow the processing activity, or if not, blocking participation of the minority groups.
There is discrimination in USDA loan, credit and subsidy program (Schelhas 7). Unequal treatment of the farmers of color as well as discriminating them by the United States Department of Agriculture engages a well documented legacy of institutionalized racism. There is acceptance by the internal report made by the Civil Rights Action Team of lack of success of the United States Department of Agriculture to go in line with the laws of federal civil rights. The report makes a conclusion that; “minority farmers have lost significant amounts of land and potential farm income as a result of discrimination by Farm Service Agency programs and the programs for its predecessor agencies” (Schelhas 7). In the United States of America, Racial discrimination in the United States Department of Agriculture was left greatly unchecked at a time when the Reagan administration was over. This was brought back to live by the Clinton administration in the year 1996 but the destruction that been done and the civil rights enforcement complaints were still eminent all through the 1990s (Swanston, 82)..
Racial discrimination has still bloomed and this has been enhanced by the policies that have been put in place that do not seek to effectively do away with racial discrimination in the use of natural resources. Appropriate policies need to be put in place in order to deal with this problem.
Majka, Charles and Majka, Thomas, Organizing US farm workers: A continuous struggle. In. Hungry for profit: The agribusiness threat to farmers, food and the environment, ed. F Mgdoff, J B Foster, and F H Buttel. New York: Monthly Review Press.
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Pefia, Devon, Environmental justice and sustainable agriculture: Linking ecological and social sides of sustainability. Resources paper series, 2002.
Schelhas, John., Race, Ethnicity, and Natural Resources in the United States: A Review. Natural Resources Journal. vol. 42, 2002.
Swanston, Stephen, Environmental Justice: mobilizing for the 21st Century: Environmental justice and environmental quality benefits: The oldest, most pernicious struggle and hope for burdened communities. Carolina: Academic Press, 2002.
West, Patrick, Urban region parks and black minorities; subculture, marginality, and interracial relations in park use in Detroit metropolitan area. Leisure sciences 11: 11-28.