Black farmers boycott John Deere over alleged racism

Cyril Josh Barker | 9/24/2020, midnight
The National Black Farmers’ Association says agricultural equipment manufacturer John Deere cares little about the Black community and is calling ...
Farming/John Deere Image by Franz W. from Pixabay

The National Black Farmers’ Association says agricultural equipment manufacturer John Deere cares little about the Black community and is calling for a boycott of the Fortune 500 company. NBFA says that for years John Deere has declined invitations for the company to display its equipment at the NBFA’s annual conference. The organization believes John Deere is racist by refusing to cater to Black farmers who use their products.

“John Deere has shown throughout its history that it has little respect for Black farmers. The company seems to view our invitations as a nuisance,” said NBFA president John Boyd. “I have reached out to Mr. John May, president of John Deere, numerous times to discuss the issues raised by the NBFA. Mr. May’s response is ‘I decline your invitation,’ which is unacceptable.”

NBFA has 116,000 members in 42 states. Members say they would like to know about innovative farming equipment and technology they could use for their businesses. NBFA officials say John Deere continues to participate at predominantly white farm shows and events while snubbing Black farmers’ events.

“The very same treatment as the Farm Bureau, whose members enjoy discounts on John Deere purchases…Service call inquiries to John Deere equipment from Black farmers is much slower than their white counterparts,” said Boyd. “We buy tractors and John Deere parts as well. We deserve to be treated with dignity and respect—not as a nuisance.”

Just days after NBFA announced its boycott, John Deere announced a coalition with the National Black Growers Council and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund focused on the work needed to improve the livelihoods of Black farmers with a particular emphasis on the preservation of heirs’ property in rural communities throughout the United States.

The new coalition, entitled 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.

“Farmers need land to plant and harvest, they need access to tools, technologies and services that will help their operations grow and thrive,” said John C. May, Deere’s chairman and CEO. “These investments provide the means to fulfill these requirements and, in many cases, to carry on vital legacies.”

May claims John Deere has a long history of supporting racial equality work, most recently reflected by May’s participation in a special committee on racial equity and social justice of the Business Roundtable. The company has also pledged $1 million to the NAACP to assist aspiring Black entrepreneurs and provided matching grants to other social justice organizations.

John Deere garnered a reported $37.3 billion in revenue in 2018.

“Through our expanded partnership with the NBGC and TMCF, we will seek out other partners and leverage our resources to invest in programs and partnerships that encourage and foster a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment in the agricultural industry,” May said.

Despite John Deere’s recent partnerships, Boyd said the boycott will move forward. He called the move by the company “highly offensive” and an effort to “sidestep.”

“The boycott against John Deere will continue as we ask our NBFA members, African partners and allies to stop buying John Deere tractors, implements, mowers and parts,” Boyd said. “We remain open to new relationships with companies who value the work of NBFA members.”