In response to the calls for racial equity amplified by the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, John Deere created a coalition to help Black farmers across the US. The LEAP (Legislation, Education, Advocacy, and Production) Coalition seeks to equip Black farmers with legal and financial resources to ensure their longevity in the agricultural industry.
Over a century ago, Black farmers owned and operated farms on more than 16 million acres of land, compared to 4.7 million acres today. Racial discrimination in lending and land ownership led to the decline of Black owned farmland in the US, though several legislative and programmatic efforts have been underway to help more Black farmers.
“Many Black landowners avoided formal estate planning and passed property without a will,” John Deere’s Vice President of US Policy & Strategy Collis Jones said in a news release. “Without a will, a landowner’s property would simply pass to heirs. Over generations, however, heirs’ property created both increasingly fractional ownership as well as clouded title.”
The LEAP initiative partners with the National Black Growers Council and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to provide legal resources to Black farmers looking to secure a title for their land.
“Securing land title for Black farmers will not only unlock inherent economic value for them, but it will also allow us to help eliminate longstanding systemic barriers to land improvement and wealth building that has constrained many diverse farmers across the United States,” Denver Caldwell, a director at the company, said.
The Justice for Black Farmers Act introduced by Sens. Raphael Warnock and Cory Booker earlier this year seeks to undue injustice Black farmers and farmers of color faced during the early and mid 1900s. President Joe Biden also set aside $5 million of coronavirus pandemic aid for Black farmers.
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