Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Cornelius Blanding executive director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund in East Point, Ga. on Jan. 10, 2022, to sign an agreement signifying a continued partnership between USDA and the nonprofit organization.
The partnership between USDA and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund aims to increase the number of minority landowners in the South and support them in sustainable forestry and agroforestry practices. Secretary Vilsack signed on behalf of USDA’s Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and National Agroforestry Center, which have roles in implementing the agreement.
The agreement renews USDA’s commitment to working with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives to assist African American landowners and other underserved farmers, and ensure they have access to critical resources and information. The agreement focuses on the key role that underserved landowners play in forest management, food production, conservation, wood energy, and climate mitigation.
“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 programs,” said Vilsack. “I want to thank the Federation of Southern Cooperatives for continuing to partner with USDA. This is a priority for us.”
“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 programs and services is essential for addressing the unique natural resource needs and challenges across the country.”
“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 stabilize ownership through increasing income and land asset value,” said Blanding.
“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.”
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund is the nation’s oldest and largest cooperative association of black farmers, landowners and cooperatives. More information on the organization can be found here at www.federation.coop.
Media inquiries can be directed to the USDA Forest Service Southern Region, Office of Communications: SM.FS.R8OC@usda.gov.