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“It Tears You Apart Mentally and Physically”: The Health Crisis Afflicting Black Farmers

Farming is a stressful occupation. Black farmers face the additional burdens of racism, debt and fear of displacement.

At 43 and 45 years old, husband and wife farmers Angie and Wenceslaus Provost, Jr., hope they live to see age 70. 

They don’t fear terminal illness or a farm accident that could consign them to an early grave. 

Instead, they fear stress could do them in. Years of trying to protect family land from encroaching banks and government agencies have worn on them, despite their love of farming. 

After years of mounting debt with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and a bank, the New Iberia, La. sugar cane farmers filed a September 2018 lawsuit against a USDA-approved lender. The suit alleges that Wenceslaus, known as ​“June,” was all but run out of the profession in 2015 after the bank reduced his crop loans over successive years, effectively underfunding his farm operation. June also claims that the lender regularly dispersed his funds well past planting season, which hampered his ability to compete against other, mostly white, cane farmers in the region. Angie has had a separate and ongoing civil rights claim open against USDA since 2017.