Federation of Southern Cooperatives renews agreement with USDA

The organisations will partner on efforts to grow the number of black landowners and develop sustainable forestry practices

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives has signed an agreement with the US Department of Agriculture to continue their partnership, which is working to increase the number of black landowners in the US south.

The Federation – a non-profit cooperative association of African American farmers, landowners, and co-ops – will also use the partnership to help its members develop sustainable forestry and agroforestry practices.

Executive director Cornelius Blanding said: “Our goal is to make an intentional impact so that underserved landowners, especially African American landowners, have access to resources to manage the forest and other natural resources on their land to enhance family wealth and stabilise ownership through increasing income and land asset value.”

Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack, who co-signed the agreement with Mr Blanding, said: “These efforts serve to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion in USDA programs and make sure people have fair access to all of our services and programmes. I want to thank the Federation of Southern Cooperatives for continuing to partner with USDA. This is a priority for us.”

Mr Vilsack signed the deal on behalf of USDA’s Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and National Agroforestry Center, which will help put the agreement into practice.

USDA says the deal renews its commitment to working with the Federation to help African American landowners and other underserved farmers, and give them access to critical resources and information. The agreement focuses on the key role underserved landowners play in forest management, food production, conservation, wood energy, and climate mitigation.

“Through partnerships like this one, we are ensuring that historically underserved landowners and producers have the tools they need to successfully integrate conservation practices on their forest and agricultural lands,” said NRCS chief Terry Cosby. “Equity in our programmes and services is essential for addressing the unique natural resource needs and challenges across the country.”

“The Forest Service has a long history of partnership with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and building equity for all,” said Forest Service chief Randy Moore. “This agreement will help us strategically invest federal resources to minority forest landowners and others to ensure equal access for all.”