Black Interests

John Deere Is Helping Black Farmers Take Back Their Land

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Last year, John Deere partnered with the National Black Growers Council and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to create the Legislation, Education, Advocacy and Production Systems, or LEAP, coalition.  Since its September launch, the group has been working to help Black farmers and their families overcome legal obstacles stemming from heirs’ property disputes.

According to AG Daily, LEAP will work with organizations to provide awareness, assistance, and even legal help and advice to help Black and minority farmers gain a clear title to their land. Additionally, LEAP will work to ensure the long-term sustainability of more than 60 million acres of land currently owned by Black and minority farmers.

Tharlyn Fox, who was hired by John Deere in November to implement and manage LEAP’s mission said the agricultural, construction, and forestry machinery company is uniquely positioned to help Black farmers.

John Deere “has a rich history of advocating for and investing in opportunities to advance social and economic change,” Fox told AG Daily. “If you combine that history with the leadership and expertise we have in agriculture, John Deere is uniquely positioned to help address issues such as heir’s property and to further unlock the economic potential of all farmers.”

John Deere cites its Chairman and CEO John May’s recent participation in a special committee on racial equity and social justice of the Business Roundtable as proof of their commitment to black farmers. The group’s finance subcommittee focuses on helping underserved communities with affordable housing and ensuring equal pay in the workplace, in addition to gaining access to capital. Additionally, over the summer, Deere & Co. made a significant effort to support minorities in agriculture, pledging $1 million to the NAACP Empowerment Programs to fight racial inequality. The company had also encouraged employees to donate to social justice causes, promising to match some funds.

The coalition has also pledged to fight heirs’ property, which has been used to take property away from Black farmers.

According to the Heirs’ Property Retention Coalition, if a land owner dies without a will or estate plans and has four children, each child will have an undivided interest in the land as “tenants in common.”

The majority of Black farmers (60%) operate on land that falls under heirs’ property and many of them do not have a clear title to their land. The coalition will help fight heirs’ property and help Black and minority farmers keep their most important and valuable asset, their land.

Less than a year ago, the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) called for a boycott of John Deere products, due to the company’s refusal to display its products at the NBFA’s yearly conference.

In recent months, the federal government has joined the effort to help Black farmers. Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) reintroduced the Justice For Black Farmers Act in February. President Joe Biden also earmarked $5 billion in COVID relief funds for Black farmers.

Sources:  CNN, Black Enterprise.com, The Washington Informer, AG Daily.com and other media sources.

Photo credit:  John Deere, The Washington Informer

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