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June and Angie Provost: Legacy of Black Farmland Loss
17 Aug 2019
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In 1983, June Provost could count 60 black sugarcane farmers who lived and farmed in his region of South Louisiana. Today, June and his wife Angie can count only four. The Provosts are among the multitudes of black farmers across the United States who have been subjected to harassment, discrimination, and sabotage, causing the loss of farms, land, and livelihoods. 

June Provost is a fourth generation sugarcane farmer. His grandfather Frank was the first in the family to own land, and what began with just 33 acres became a legacy of land ownership and sugarcane production passed to his children and grandchildren. Until recently, the Provosts farmed 4,500 acres across two Louisiana parishes—Iberia and Vermilion—in a region wrought with racial discrimination that Angie says harkens back to a “good old boys’ club”. June and Angie Provost were successful and dedicated farmers, with June earning the title of the 2008 Farmer of the Year in Iberia Parish, as awarded by the Louisiana Farm Bureau. 

During the summer of 2014, the Provosts endured repeated incidents of sabotage to their land and farm equipment. They found dead cats purposefully arranged in a line near their tractor, and they faced near-weekly vandalism and damage to their farm equipment. Furthermore, they were routinely surveilled by a representative of MA Patout and Son, the sugarcane mill that June contracted with. It seemed clear to the Provosts, as well as to law enforcement, that someone was out to get them. 

 Additionally, June Provost faced years of discriminatory lending practices. To secure farm loans, Angie and June believe they were made to provide more collateral than their white counterparts, and were granted loans that were too small for the scale of the sugarcane operation and which often arrived too late in the season. Without proper funding and feasible loan terms, the Provosts could not make needed repairs to equipment, afford the labor to run a farm, or plant new cane for the following season. Furthermore, like many black farmers, June carries the burden of ancestral debt, as he was forced to guarantee his father’s farm loans.

The final straw came in 2015, after MA Patout and Son falsely accused June of breaking his milling contract, and refused to harvest or mill his crop. This resulted in an estimated loss of more than half a million dollars, and June was forced to shutter the business. Nearly five years later, June and Angie have experienced the loss of their farm, home, and livelihood as a direct result of generations of racial discrimination and an agriculture system that has targeted African American farmers across the country.

For more info, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/30/america-black-farmers-louisiana-sugarcane

The Provosts are currently engaged in two separate lawsuits—one against MA Patout & Son sugar mill, and a second lawsuit against First Guaranty Bank for racketeering and violations on eight counts of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), the Fair Housing Act, and Louisiana’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law. 

To support June and Angie as they fight to maintain ownership of their ancestral home and to dismantle the discriminatory and fraudulent practices committed against black farmers, consider contributing to their GoFundMe: 

https://www.gofundme.com/provost-farm-llc

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Family Farms Farmers
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