Equal Access To US Forestry For African American Landowners

Partnership Between Drax And The Federation Of Southern Cooperatives Will Increase Education And Training For Opportunities In The Growing Wood Pellet Industry

Members of the Federation of Southern Cooperative and Drax.

Drax, a producer and user of sustainable biomass, has announced a new partnership with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives to help African American farmers, landowners, and cooperatives in the southern United States with greater access to the biomass market, further encouraging sustainable forestry management.

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund is a 55-year-old regional cooperative and rural economic development organization that serves a membership of Black farmers, landowners, and cooperatives, with co-op development, land retention, and advocacy. Through a jointly committed memorandum of cooperation with Drax, the two organizations will work together to enhance outreach, education, market access, and community engagement in the region’s forestry supply chain.

The partnership includes a commitment to develop a shared understanding of what environmental justice means for small forest owners and the biomass industry. This includes building a program of work that creates greater access to a fiber market that has historically been dominated by larger landowners and previously excluded Black landowners.

“This partnership with Drax will help us further in our goals to tackle historic land rights issues by empowering these smaller forest landowners with training and resources to enable them access to the forest markets,” said Freddie Davis III, director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives Rural Training and Research Center. “Access to forest markets is critical in a landowners’ ability to manage their forests sustainably. It benefits the broader forest products industry and helps support jobs, opportunities, and economic benefits in our communities. It also helps keep forests as forests — benefiting carbon stocks and biodiversity.”

Biomass plays a critical role in the sustainable management of forests in the United States by providing a reliable source of income that incentivizes smaller landowners to maintain their forest land and encourages them to adopt good forest stewardship principles. “Drax is committed to supporting the communities where we operate, and this partnership with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives is an important step in helping owners of smaller areas of land benefit financially from the biomass industry while also stimulating sustainable forestry management across the United States,” saidWill Gardiner, CEO of Drax. “This will benefit many small farmers, suppliers, and related businesses and help pave the way toward redressing the balance and advancing equity in the forest products industry in the US South.”

The nature of the vast and abundant forestry resources in the southern United States has encouraged economies of scale which have disadvantaged many small forest landowners, such as those represented by the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund.