The National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) is calling on the Biden Administration to end its proposed ban on menthol tobacco products, calling it a misguided federal policy that will devastate Black farmers and rural communities. Representing 130,000 members across 47 states, the NBFA has launched a nationwide Change.org petition to rally support.
“The White House is about to hand down another mandate that will put more Black farmers out of business,” said NBFA Founder and President John Boyd Jr. in a statement. “The proposed federal ban targets adult use of menthol tobacco products—the kind of tobacco products preferred and grown by Black farmers. This will rob small towns and businesses of critical income.”
The process to finalize a Food and Drug Administration rule is expected within weeks. If enacted, the ban could lead to widespread unemployment, loss of income and assets, and even the potential extinction of generations of farming families, according to the NBFA. “This is particularly true for Black farmers who are already struggling due to misguided federal policies and a lack of relief or alternatives,” the organization wrote.
“Few workers have been hit harder in recent years than Black farmers, whose numbers continue to dwindle. In 1910, about 14 percent of U.S. farmers were Black, owning more than 16 million acres. According to the latest available Census of Agriculture data, only one in 100 farmers is black, owning a total of less than 5 million acres.”
The association previously represented 1 million Black farmers across the country, a figure which now stands at over 130,000 across 47 states.
“We know all too well how misguided policies from the federal government have, time and time again, put another nail in the coffin of Black farmers and rural towns across America,” added Boyd. “My members stand on the brink of disaster. We must find a better solution that does not further damage America’s shrinking rural towns or put additional pressure on hardworking farmers. This NBFA petition allows us to speak out—we hope the White House will hear the concerns of generations of Black farmers.”
Beyond the economic impact, opponents of the ban on menthol tobacco products note measure would criminalize the sale, distribution and possession of menthol cigarettes. This criminalization, they warn, could result in mandatory minimum sentences, revocation of parole, fines, the loss of one’s right to vote, or even deportation, among other criminal legal consequences.
A study by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health reveals that 40 percent of adults who use cigarettes smoke menthol and that over 80 percent of Black smokers use menthol.