Black Farmers Association calls for Tractor Supply CEO to resign after company cuts DEI efforts

Black Farmers Association calls for Tractor Supply CEO to resign after company cuts DEI efforts

NEW YORK (AP) — The National Black Farmers Association called on Tuesday for the president and CEO of Tractor Supply to step down after the rural retailer announced it would drop most of its groceries. Corporate Diversity and Climate Advocacy.

The resignation request comes as Tractor Supply, which sells products ranging from farm equipment to pet supplies, faces a deep backlash over its decision, which itself came after conservative activists spoke out against the company’s efforts to be more socially inclusive and rein in its excesses. Climate change.

In a public announcement last week, the company said it would remove all of its services. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Roles, End of Care “Non-Commercial Activities” such as Pride Festivalsand withdraw its goals to limit carbon emissionsCritics of the new position argue that Tractor Supply is giving in to its customers’ hatred and hurting them by abandoning basic principles.

“I was shocked by the decision.” John Boyd Jr.“I see this as turning back the clock on race relations — because the country is so divided on race, especially in rural America,” the president and founder of the National Black Farmers Association said in an interview.

Tractor Supply declined to comment further when contacted Tuesday.

Headquartered in Brentwood, Tennessee, Tractor Supply operates more than 2,200 stores across the United States, most of which are located in Rural areasThe retailer’s core customer base consists of shoppers who need farm and ranch products, such as livestock feed, trucking supplies, and outdoor tools and equipment.

Boyd said tractor supply stores can be found where many of the NBFA’s 130,000 members are located. Like other farmers, he said black farmers I’ve been shopping at the chain for years. Boyd, who is also a Tractor Supply shareholder, estimates he’s personally spent more than $10,000 at his local store since January alone — buying supplies like fence wire and feed for his cattle and horses in Virginia.

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Before the company’s announcement, conservative activists opposed to DEI efforts, LGBTQ+ event sponsorship and climate advocacy spent weeks criticizing Tractor Supply on social media. Tractor Supply said in its statement Thursday that it was making the changes after hearing from frustrated customers and taking “this feedback very seriously.”

The decision represents a major shift in messaging for Tractor Supply, which once touted its diversity and inclusion efforts. In recent years, the company has been trying to broaden its appeal to younger consumers — including former urbanites it now risks alienating.

“We will continue to listen to our customers and team members. Your trust in us is of the utmost importance, and we do not take it lightly,” the company said.

The NBFA said it had made repeated attempts to discuss its concerns with Tractor Supply chief executive Hal Lawton before calling for his resignation.

“He’s gone too far, and we have to tell him we’re not going to sit back and put up with this mess anymore,” Boyd said, adding that the organization may consider calling for a boycott of Tractor Supply if nothing changes in the coming days. “We’re tired of being mistreated by the government and Fortune 500 companies. … Black farmers are going to start fighting back. And that’s what we’re doing.”

Some customers have already decided to take their business elsewhere, including Squirrelwood Equine Sanctuary, a New York animal sanctuary that says it spends more than $65,000 a year on livestock feed and other supplies at Tractor Supply.

Beth Heyman, co-founder of Squirrelwood, said she first heard about the company’s decision when sanctuary supporters reached out to ask if the group planned to make a statement about it. She thought about it for a day and then went to her local store to ask a manager she’d worked with for years about the announcement.

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Hyman, who is gay, said she told the director the shelter could no longer support Tractor Supply if its ad reflected her beliefs. The sanctuary also posted its stance on X, where the post received 31,000 likes.

“It’s baffling to me that a company would give in to a hate campaign,” Hyman said. “Now they have another boycott on their hands. We didn’t ask for it, but clearly people are doing it.”

The conservative pressure on Tractor Supply and the fallout from the surrender was “a perfect example of how the country’s growing divisions — politically and ideologically — make it really hard to manage consumers versus businesses,” said Allen Adamson, co-founder of marketing consultancy Metaforce.

“No matter how you go about it, you’re going to upset a lot of customers,” he said.

Consumers of all backgrounds are becoming more influenced by social media and are choosing to redirect their spending if they feel companies don’t align with their values, Adamson said. In the case of Tractor Supply, which has businesses in rural communities, the anti-DEI activism put the retailer in a “really tough” position where it had to do something to stop a potential exodus, he said.

“No company wants to be the target of negativity on social media,” Adamson said. “It’s a no-win situation.”

Tractor Supply’s decline comes in the wake of boycott campaigns against it. bud light And Goal Last year due to LGBTQ+ marketing. Target has decided not to carry Pride Month merchandise in all of its stores this June after the backlash last year.

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Legal attacks Against diversity and inclusion efforts by companies It also gained more attention after the Supreme Court decision. Rule 2023 To end affirmative action in college admissions. Many conservative and anti-DEI activists have sought to do so. set a similar precedent In the world of work.

A number of other organizations and Tractor Supply sponsors have also expressed disappointment or outrage over the company’s recent announcement — which included plans to no longer provide data to the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ+ advocacy group in the United States.

“Tractor Supply is turning its back on its neighbors with this shortsighted decision,” Eric Bloom, vice president of programs and corporate advocacy at the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement last week. He added that the organization has worked with Tractor Supply to develop comprehensive policies and practices for years.

But Boyd, of the National Black Farmers Association, said that despite years of efforts by the NBFA, Tractor Supply has not consulted with the group on past diversity and inclusion goals or participated in the organization’s conferences. The company recently invited the NBFA to apply to be a partner in the Tractor Supply Foundation, but the organization learned on June 26 — the day before Tractor Supply announced its DEI and climate goals — that it was not among the groups selected, he said.

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