The coalition, called LEAP (Legislation, Education, Advocacy and Production) is now expanding its mission and created a website dedicated to advancing its mission. The coalition includes John Deere, the National Black Growers Council, and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
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.”
The coalition has also pledged to fight heirs’ property, which has been used to take property away from Black farmers.
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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.”
Undivided means each child has the right to use and occupy the entire property. if those four children have children the land is split even more between them. This could lead to dozens and potentially hundreds of owners known as fractional ownership, which significantly increases the chances an heir (or a land speculator who has purchased an heir’s share) attempting to force a partition sale, or that the land will be lost to tax default.
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.