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Savi Horne: Stewarding Land Access and Environmental Justice

Posted by Cecilia Hernandez, Designated Federal Officer, USDA Equity Commission in Equity Initiatives
Apr 22, 2024
Savonala Horne

For Savonala “Savi” Horne, every day is like Earth Day, a day celebrated on April 22 annually since 1970 as a call to mobilize millions of Americans to drive positive action for our planet. As the Executive Director of the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers, Land Loss Prevention Project (LLPP) and a member of the USDA Equity Commission’s Agriculture Subcommittee, Horne stands as a steward of equitable land access and a formidable force in the field of environmental justice and sustainability.

Her career and most recent work on the Equity Commission embodies the spirit of Earth Day—a day dedicated to honoring the planet and prioritizing environmental justice. Under Horne's leadership, LLPP has been an organization dedicated to the preservation of the family farm, a topic that has also been at the heart of the Equity Commission. Born from the need to combat systemic injustices, the LLPP emerged in 1983 as a response to the alarming loss of Black-owned land in North Carolina. Founded by the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers, this non-profit organization became a bastion of hope for farmers and rural landowners facing legal, economic, and environmental challenges.

Through her work experience with LLPP, Horne has shown an intimate understanding of the deep connection between environmental justice, food justice, and racial equity. Her passion and expertise in these areas have benefitted the work of the Equity Commission’s Agriculture Subcommittee in the discussion and development of recommendations to ensure that all stakeholders have equitable access to resources, opportunities, and representation in agriculture. “To me, equity means that all stakeholders, particularly People of Color stakeholders, and limited resource producers, have a level of access that is open, transparent, fair, and is committed to their progress in agriculture and continued presence on the land,” says Horne.

In the final report (PDF, 2.0 MB) released by the USDA Equity Commission in February 2024, Horne was particularly instrumental in crafting recommendations to address the issues of Land Access and Conservation. Her voice echoed the sentiments of countless farmers, farmworkers, and landowners, urging for policies that uplift and empower historically marginalized and disenfranchised communities. To this end, the Equity Commission ultimately recommended that USDA ensure equitable funding to community-led land access and transition projects and include equitable climate actions in USDA conservation programs to address environmental justice.

USDA has already made progress by awarding approximately $300M towards projects that will increase opportunities for underserved landowners/producers through the through the Increasing Land, Capital and Market Access Program in August 2022. Recognizing the importance of land access to agriculture and opportunity, this program is designed to help underserved producers by increasing land, capital, and market access. Additionally, in FY22, the Natural Resources Conservation Service invested $50 million dollars in 118 partnerships to improve equity in access to conservation programs through Equity Conservation Cooperative Agreements and invested another $70 million in 139 projects in FY23.

The recommendations in the Equity Commission’s final report (PDF, 2.0 MB) will pave the way for sustainable change beyond the life of the Commission itself. “I have hope that the process is going to get it right once and for all,” Horne reflects. “I hope everybody knows that the Commission, our presence, is not going to go away, because we have to see it through, even when it has sunset, through advocacy.”

As we celebrate Earth Day this year, Equity Commission member Savi Horne inspires us to care for our land and the farmers and communities that cultivate it. Her unwavering dedication to equity and environmental justice illuminates the path towards a brighter, more equitable and sustainable future for all.

The Commission's efforts to promote equitable access to resources and opportunities in agriculture resonate deeply with the principles of Earth Day, underscoring the urgent need for collective action in safeguarding our planet, its resources, and its inhabitants. We can look to the USDA’s progress report on the implementation of the Equity Commission’s recommendations (PDF, 4.7 MB) as a step in the right direction.

For more information on the next Equity Regional Convening, visit the Equity page. The Equity Commission Final Report is available in both English (PDF, 2.0 MB) and Spanish (PDF, 1.7 MB).

Category/Topic: Equity Initiatives
Tags: equity USDA