How Heirs' Property puts many Black families at risk of losing their farms

Collis Jones
Collis Jones, vice president of U.S. policy and strategy

Recently the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new $67 million loan program designed to help resolve heirs' land ownership and succession issues.

As the USDA notes, heirs' property issues have long been a barrier for many producers and landowners to access USDA programs and services. The department's announcement follows a recent letter from John Deere's Vice President U.S. Policy and Strategy, Collis Jones, to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack outlining John Deere's support for heirs' property reform.

"In our view, Deere is uniquely positioned to help promote public policy solutions and corporate initiatives that help underserved farmers gain access to capital and enjoy the advantages that come with proven land ownership," Jones said. "We believe, moreover, the impact of Deere's leadership on this issue can be further leveraged through our participation in organizations such as The LEAP Coalition."

Deere formed LEAP (Legislation, Education, Advocacy and Production Systems) last year in partnership with the National Black Growers Council (NBGC) and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF). The coalition's goal is to help eliminate barriers created by heirs' property and provide resources to advance the lives and livelihoods of Black farmers.

"The LEAP Coalition focuses on addressing the decades-long issue of heirs' property rights, in which no clear title to farmland is recorded," Jones explained. "The coalition is further partnering with The Federation of Southern Cooperatives and other organizations to carry out LEAP's mission. These partners provide expertise that complements our company's legacy of serving farmers for nearly 200 years. Further, the coalition builds on Deere's longstanding relationships with Black farmers and organizations that have traditionally supported them and served as forceful advocates for social and economic justice."

Read the letter from Collis Jones urging the USDA to fund efforts to help resolve heirs' property issues.