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October 7th, 2020

A Statement in Support of the Equal Rights Amendment

American Farmland Trust was formed with the conviction that we can and must do better—that we must stop the senseless loss of farmland, adopt new farming practices that will heal our planet, and do more to support the hardworking farmers and ranchers who produce our food. Thus, it is both natural and right that we want to do more to ensure the full participation of women in agriculture by supporting the Equal Rights Amendment.

The Equal Rights Amendment would guarantee that all Americans regardless of sex are afforded the same rights under the United States Constitution. The Constitution, as originally ratified in 1788, did not extend basic citizenship rights, including the right to vote, to women. And with women’s voices marginalized, the institutional, economic, and legal barriers which prevent women from fully participating in society grew.

Fortunately, the United States Constitution provides an amendment mechanism to right wrongs. In 1920, after more than a century of advocacy, the American people ratified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The 19th amendment established that, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” It was a watershed moment in the fight to ensure the enfranchisement of all Americans—a fight that continues even today.

This year, after four decades of advocacy, the Equal Rights Amendment was ratified by Virginia, the last of the 38 ratifying states needed to fulfill the Constitutional requirements for enactment.

But the Archivist of the United States—charged by statute with carrying out the ministerial function of publishing duly enacted amendments—has refused to certify the adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment, a necessary step to conclude the ratification process.

Citizens, organizations, businesses, and states have filed legal challenges to compel the Archivist to do his Constitutional duty.  We support their efforts to see the Equal Rights Amendment finally recognized as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution.  We join with hundreds of businesses and organizations and millions of Americans to voice support for gender equality.

American Farmland Trust, through our Women for the Land initiative and other programs, has been working to elevate the voices, stories, and needs of women landowners and farmers across the country. And we’ve learned through this work that the future of agriculture is increasingly female.

Forty-three percent of U.S. farmland —nearly 388 million acres— is now farmed or co-farmed by women. Many of these women have a strong conservation ethic and are deeply committed to healthy farmland, farm families, and farm communities. But women continue to face gender-related barriers to managing their land for long-term sustainability. And while women increasingly are the primary decision-makers on farms and inclined towards conservation, they are underrepresented in USDA conservation programs. The socioeconomic and legal challenges facing women due to gender inequality directly impact farm businesses in their efforts to access resources and new markets—making it harder for American agriculture to succeed.

The full participation of women in agriculture is critical. When we support women in agriculture, we support the future of agriculture, a healthy environment, and vibrant communities. To us, gender equality is a moral, economic, and environmental imperative.  Our future literally depends on it.