John Deere pledges to support heirs’ property program
John Deere has pledged to support the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund’s program to address the problem of heirs’ property — land owned by two or more people, usually with a common ancestor, who died without leaving a legal will, the federation announced Thursday.
Cornelius Blanding, executive director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, said heirs’ property is the leading cause of involuntary land loss among Black farmers. More than 60% of Black farmers operate on heirs’ property, Blanding added.
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund is the oldest and largest Black farmer institution and only cooperatively owned organization of Black farmers, landowners and cooperatives in the country. It operates the Regional Heirs’ Property & Mediation Center.
John Deere will support the federation’s legal internship program, which provides law students with a 12-week internship opportunity to help licensed attorneys with land tenure and heirs’ property issues across the Southeastern United States where heirs’ property is most prevalent.
Supervised summer legal interns research and clear property titles, conduct family meetings and conferences, participate in land-retention workshops, research law and update legal guides and brochures, draft legal documents including wills, and organize community wills clinics.
Monica Armster Rainge, the federation’s director of land retention and advocacy and an agricultural lawyer, started as a legal intern at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in 1996.
“Law schools rarely focus on the unique legal issues heirs’ property owners face, so my internship experience with the federation was an eye-opener,” Rainge said.
“I did not know that this was a career choice with so much opportunity to make a real difference in my community. We are preparing the next generation of Black lawyers and professionals to meet the growing legal needs in our communities.”
Deere will also sponsor the Federation’s National Heirs’ Property Conference over the next five years. The conference is designed to provide heirs’ property owners with the strategies and resources they need to clear their title and make their land a wealth-building asset. This year’s conference is scheduled for December 1 to 3.
“We are pleased to partner with John Deere to help inform and guide their focus, partnerships and resources around heirs’ property,” Blanding said.
“Over the last 53 years, we have identified resource gaps that prevent Black farmers from resolving their heirs’ property issues. Access to trusted and affordable legal assistance in rural communities of color continues to be a significant challenge for Black farmers.”
“The partnership with the federation will advance resources that will effectively secure property ownership for Black farmers and their families,” said Marc Howze, John Deere Group president, Lifecycle Solutions, and chief administrative officer “We have a tremendous opportunity to make an impactful difference in the community.”
“Our commitment signals the beginning of a broader partnership that will unlock the productivity and economic value harnessed in land ownership,” said John Deere Chairman and CEO John May.
–The Hagstrom Report
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