Black farmers used to own over 16 million acres of land in the U.S. Today, that's dropped to just 4.7 million acres, and John Deere wants to do something about it.
Company Spokeswoman Jennifer Hartmann says, either because of a lack of access or a lack of trust in the judicial system, Black farmers have avoided estate planning or formal wills. So, instead their land is passed down through "heir property."
That uncertain ownership is the leading cause of involuntary land loss among Black farmers. And Hartmann says it presents other challenges.
"Particularly, when that Black farmer is looking to access equipment financing, operational loans, or to even qualify for government and disaster assistance."
That's why John Deere is joining LEAP (Legislation, Education, Advocacy, and Production Systems)—a coalition of non-profits working to provide legal resources to Black farmers. Hartmann says Deere will offer financial support to the National Black Growers Council, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives.
"The Federation of Southern Cooperatives, for instance, is already doing a lot of this work. We just want to be able to expand their reach, and (provide) the opportunity for those Black farm owners to clear their title."
The announcement comes after John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmer's Association, called for a boycott of John Deere equipment. Boyd says the company snubbed the NBFA by repeatedly refusing to attend its annual convention. Deere officials say it has been a financial sponsor of the NBFA and attended its 2019 convention.