Smithfield Foods: First participants in new U...
Smithfield Foods

First participants in new Unity & Action program

Smithfield Foods Inc.
The program was developed to help address historic barriers disproportionally facing Black and other minority farmers.
The program was developed to help address historic barriers disproportionally facing Black and other minority farmers.

USA, Smithfield. Smithfield Foods has welcomed the first family farmers to participate in its new contract grower program to support Black and other minority farmers and diversify its hog supply chain.

The program, developed to help address historic barriers disproportionally facing Black and other minority farmers such as access to capital and cost of capital, is outlined in a new documentary from the perspective of the Martin family, contract hog farmers for the company based in Wayne County, N.C. The program is part of a $15 million Unity & Action commitment Smithfield has made to further diversity, equity and inclusion in food manufacturing, agriculture and education. According to an own press release, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) is a standalone pillar of Smithfield's industry leading sustainability program.

The Martins, who own J & J Martin Farm Produce, are descendants of Harry Martin, a North Carolina man who escaped enslavement and enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War as a member of the 135th United States Colored Troops (USCT). He returned to Wayne County and purchased land in 1883 that he later endowed to his children. His descendant, Larry Martin, has led farm operations for Martin Farms since 1986. In 2011, the family lost their ability to raise hogs after a weather event destroyed their hog barn.

Minority farmers represent just 5% of farmers

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), minority farmers represent just 5% of farmers in America and less than 2% identify as Black. Smithfield's new contract grower initiative to promote equity in agriculture has enabled the Martin family to return to their legacy of hog farming and will empower additional minority farmers to enter or re-enter the industry.

Last June, Smithfield initiated its comprehensive Unity & Action program and proactively engaged the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) to discuss how to promote access for minority farmers to the agricultural industry. The resulting grassroots program was developed gradually over the last year with input from numerous Black and other minority farmers and the NCDA&CS. The first phase of the program focuses the company's efforts in North Carolina and will be expanded to include additional communities where its farms are located. By the end of the 2021, the company expects to have signed at least three more minority farmers to the program.

Source: Smithfield Foods Inc.

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