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 the president and CEO of Tractor Supply Co. to step down Tuesday after the rural retailer announced it would drop most of its products. Institutional Diversity and Climate Advocacy Efforts.

The resignation request comes as Tractor Supply, which sells products ranging from farm equipment to pet supplies, faces backlash over its decision, which came after conservative activists spoke out against the company’s work to become more socially inclusive and reduce Climate change.

In a public announcement last week, the company said it would cancel all Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Roles, End of Care for “Non-Commercial Activities” such as Pride FestivalsAnd withdraw its goals to reduce carbon emissionsCritics of the new stance claim that Tractor Supply is giving in to hate and hurting its customers by abandoning basic principles.

“I was horrified 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 core retail customer base consists of shoppers who need farm and livestock products, such as livestock feed, transportation supplies, tools, and outdoor 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 They’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 made the changes after hearing from frustrated customers and took “this feedback seriously.”

The decision represented a major shift in messaging for Tractor Supply, which once prided itself on its efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. 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 National Tractor Manufacturers Association said it made repeated attempts to discuss its concerns with Tractor Supply chairman and chief executive Hal Lawton before calling on him to resign.

“He’s crossed the line — and we have to tell him we’re not going to sit back and put up with this mess any longer,” 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.

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Beth Heyman, co-founder of Squirrelwood, said she first heard about the company’s decision when sanctuary supporters reached out to her 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.

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

“It’s astonishing to me that a company would give in to a hate campaign,” Heyman said. “And now they have another boycott campaign. We didn’t call for it, but clearly people are calling for it.”

The conservative pressure on Tractor Supply and the consequences of capitulating were “the perfect example of how the country’s growing division — politically and ideologically — makes it really difficult to run a business that deals with consumers,” said Allen Adamson, co-founder of marketing consultancy Metaforce.

“No matter which way you go about it, you’re going to alienate a large segment 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, whose business is tied to rural communities, the anti-diversity, equity and inclusion activism put the retailer in a “really tough” position where it had to do something to prevent 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.”

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

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

A number of other organizations and sponsors of Tractor Supply have also expressed disappointment or outrage over the company’s recent announcement — which included plans not to send data to the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ+ advocacy group in the United States.

“Tractor Supply is abandoning its neighbors with this shortsighted decision,” Eric Blum, 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 on comprehensive policies and practices for years.

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

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