Hart visited the 40-acre farm of Will Scott, president of the African American Farmers of California, Aug. 15.
“The small farmer is being hit hardest by the years-long drought in California,” Scott told Hart as they walked through the dusty field where Scott will soon plant okra and black-eyed peas. “Wealthy farmers can afford to drill deeper for water,” he said. “The small farmer can’t.”
Hundreds of Laotian-born Hmong farmers are among those struggling to stay on the land. Most of them farm rented land using shallower wells. They have been the first driven out of their livelihood as wells dry up.
Far from helping the small farmer, Scott said, state regulations often make things worse. Laws limiting plowing to certain times in the name of holding down the dust are burdensome on a small farm, he said. Another onerous regulation forces farmers to pay for testing water for impurities and for cleaning up the water if the tests require it. “Everything is put on you,” he said, “even if you didn’t cause the problem.”
Hart pointed to the example of Cuba, where workers and farmers made a revolution. “Farmers’ organizations help decide government policy there,” Hart said. Farmers can get loans they need, and they can’t lose their land. “It brings home the need for workers and farmers to organize a revolutionary party to take power away from the capitalists here.”
Describing what Black farmers face despite winning a long-fought lawsuit, Scott said, “They give you enough credit to hang yourself.”
Campaigning door to door Aug. 14 Hart and supporters met Alicia Martinez, a farmworker for 17 years, who told Hart she and her co-workers hope to get a union at their workplace to improve conditions and pay.
Her neighbor, Pablo, described difficulties getting the company to pay for medical care when he was injured working in the fields.
“We need to fight for full medical coverage for all workers,” Hart said, “and extend solidarity to all those fighting for a union and a contract.”
At a local diner Hart met with Roger Centeno and Johnny Ramirez, both active in the fight against cop brutality. Police killed Centeno’s unarmed brother Freddy last year. A Sept. 3 vigil will mark the one-year anniversary of his death and press the fight to hold the cops accountable.
Gerardo Sánchez contributed to this article.
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