Black farmers’ association calls for Tractor Supply CEO’s resignation after company cuts DEI efforts (2024)

NEW YORK — The National Black Farmers Association called on Tractor Supply's president and CEO to step down after the rural retailer announced that it would drop most of itscorporate diversity and climate advocacy efforts.

The resignation demand emerged as Tractor Supply, which sells products ranging from farming equipment to pet supplies, faces a deepening backlash over its decision, which itself came after conservative activists spoke out against the company's work to be more socially inclusive and to curbclimate change.

In a public announcement June 27, the company said it would eliminate all of itsdiversity, equity and inclusionroles, end sponsorships of “nonbusiness activities” likePride festivals, and withdraw its goals for reducingcarbon emissions. Critics of the new position argue that Tractor Supply is giving in to hate and harming its customers by abandoning crucial principles.

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

Black farmers’ association calls for Tractor Supply CEO’s resignation after company cuts DEI efforts (1)

Tractor Supply declined to comment further when reached Tuesday.

Tractor Supply, which has its headquarters in Brentwood, Tennessee, operates over 2,200 stores across the United States, most of them located inrural areas. The retailer’s core customer base consists of shoppers in need of farm and ranch products, such as livestock feed, trucking supplies, tools and outdoor equipment.

Boyd said Tractor Supply stores can be found where much of NBFA’s 130,000 members are located. Like other farmers, he saidBlack farmershave shopped at the chain for years. Boyd, who is also a Tractor Supply shareholder, estimated personally spending more than $10,000 at his local store since January alone — buying supplies like fencing wire and feed for his cattle and horses in Virginia.

Before the company's announcement, conservative activists opposed to DEI efforts, sponsorship of LGBTQ+ events and climate advocacy spent weeks criticizing Tractor Supply on social media. Tractor Supply said in its June 27 statement that it was making the changes after hearing from disappointed customers and took "this feedback to heart.”

The decision marked a significant shift in messaging from 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 city dwellers it is at risk of now alienating.

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War on ‘woke’: Tractor Supply is ending DEI and climate efforts after conservative backlash online

  • WYATTE GRANTHAM-PHILIPS and HALELUYA HADERO Associated Press

“We will continue to listen to our customers and Team Members. Your trust and confidence in us are of the utmost importance, and we don’t take that lightly,” the company said.

NBFA said it made repeated attempts to discuss its concerns with Tractor Supply President and CEO Hal Lawton before calling for his resignation.

“He’s gone too far — and we have to let him know we’re not going to sit back and take 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 already decided to take their business elsewhere, including Squirrelwood Equine Sanctuary, a New York animal sanctuary that says it spend more than $65,000 annually on livestock feed and other supplies at Tractor Supply.

Squirrelwood co-founder Beth Hyman said she first heard about the company’s decision when the sanctuary's 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 whom she’s worked with for years about the announcement.

Hyman, who is gay, said she told the manager the sanctuary could no longer support Tractor Supply if its announcement reflected its beliefs. The sanctuary also posted its stance on X, where the post received more than 30,000 likes.

“It’s mind-boggling to me that a company would cave to basically a hate campaign,” Hyman said. “Now they just have another boycott on their hands. We didn’t call for that, but obviously people are.”

Allen Adamson, co-founder of marketing consultancy Metaforce, said the conservative pressure on Tractor Supply and the fallout from giving in was the “perfect example of how the increasing split in the country — politically and ideologically — have made it really hard to run consumer-facing businesses.”

“No matter which way you go on this, you’re going to upset big chunks of customers," he said.

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

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

Tractor Supply's reversal follows boycott campaigns againstBud LightandTargetlast year over their LGBTQ+ marketing. Target decided not to carry Pride Month merchandise in all its stores this June following last year’s backlash.

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Black farmers’ association calls for Tractor Supply CEO’s resignation after company cuts DEI efforts (2024)

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