Working with an estimated 600 Black farmers each year to help them maintain ownership of their land, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives focuses on outreach, education and technical assistance.
They and their network of referral attorneys help families with estate planning and alternative ownership models such as corporations, cooperatives, trusts, limited liability companies and intra-family buyouts, all of which help families gain clear title and retain ownership of their land.
"Based on our work in this area, we estimate that approximately 60 percent of all Black-owned farmland is in heirs' property," said Cornelius Blanding, executive director of the Federation. "We talk about heirs' property as a Civil Rights issue because it prevents access to government services and resources and is one of the major reasons that Black folks lose wealth in this country."
Blanding noted that John Deere and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund have helped by adding additional resources and strengthening the Federation's existing internship program for law students that will support heirs' property landowners and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund's efforts to reverse the trend of Black land loss.
Deere has also provided financial support for the Federation's annual National Heirs Property Conference, which gathers heirs' property owners and land retention practitioners from across the U.S. The conference spans three days and focuses on training practitioners to understand, educate and help walk people through heirs' property in addition to equipping landowners with a 12-month plan to clear their title.