Recently, John Boyd, the leader of the National Black Farmers Association, asked his membership to boycott John Deere agricultural machinery, including tractors, implements, mowers, and parts. Boyd stated that the boycott was rooted in John Deere allegedly snubbing the NBFA at its annual convention by repeatedly not setting up a booth to showcase new technologies and innovations. Now, about a week after Boyd’s statement, Deere has responded to the allegations and affirmed its support for Black farmers and minorities in rural communities.
Deere has announced the creation of a new coalition that is focused on improving the livelihood of Black farmers. Addressing the boycott, the company said in a statement emailed to AGDAILY:
“Last week you heard about the call for a boycott by the National Black Farmers Association. In the past six years, John Deere has supported the National Black Farmers Association through financial sponsorship, equipment donation, and participation in the 2019 annual conference. We invest resources to eliminate systemic barriers facing Black farmers and communities through our continued partnership with organizations like the National Black Growers Council and Minorities in Ag, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANNRS). We remain committed to these organizations, the additional partners with whom we work, members of our new coalition, as well as Black farmers and the communities they represent.”
The mission of the National Black Growers Council is to improve the efficiency, productivity, and sustainability of Black row-crop farmers, and that group, along with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, are at the heart of the new coalition with Deere to improve the livelihoods of Black farmers — with a particular emphasis on the preservation of heirs’ property in rural communities throughout the United States.
“Property ownership is a driver of economic growth for individuals and families. However, too often the benefits of ownership for those who lack clear title cannot be truly realized,” said Marc Howze, Group President, Lifecycle Solutions and Chief Administrative Officer for John Deere.
The new coalition, called LEAP (Legislation, Education, Advocacy, and Production Systems), will collectively address priority legislation, expand educational and advocacy opportunities, and ensure access to tools and technology all farmers need to successfully navigate advanced production systems.
“Land is a farmer’s most valuable and productive asset, yet 60 percent of Black farmers operate on property that has been passed through their families for generations but for which they do not have secure title. Without secure title, Black farmers cannot leverage the full value of their land,” said Dr. Dewayne Goldmon, Executive Director of the National Black Growers Council. “We are pleased to expand our relationship with John Deere, one of our Sustaining Members, on this partnership and other areas of focus for our constituents and communities.”
While Black communities in the South have been particularly affected, similar situations exist with White communities in Appalachia, Native Americans living on tribal lands, and Hispanic communities in Texas and in parts of the southwestern United States.
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John Deere says it has a long history of supporting racial equality work, as reflected by Chairman and CEO John May’s recent participation in a special committee on racial equity and social justice of the Business Roundtable. 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.
Coupled with Deere saying it has supported NBFA through donations and other sponsorship, the response from the tractor company bluntly rebuts Boyd’s claims that Deere “has shown throughout its history that it has little respect for black farmers.”
Despite how the leadership of the NBFA (which has about 116,000 members in 42 states) feels about Deere, the company does receive significant support from other minority groups in the agricultural community.
“We are delighted to expand on our existing relationship with John Deere, the NBGC, and others to tackle an issue that is critical to our communities,” said Harry Williams, President & CEO, Thurgood Marshall College Fund. “This provides an opportunity to leverage our deep roots, research, and advocacy on behalf of our land grant institutions, including law schools, to lend a voice toward addressing this systemic issue.”