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8 mins read

Delta Diamond: Pioneering Black Ownership in the Agricultural Supply Chain

In the heart of Mississippi’s second-leading county for crop production, historic Bolivar County, Delta Diamond Ag LLC stands as the first Black-owned multi-grain elevator, following a recent acquisition.

Led by Leigh Allen, whose family’s roots span five generations in the Delta, Delta Diamond is a symbol of heritage and advancement. It’s also a reminder of the pressing need for more Black-owned manufacturing and processing facilities in the agricultural supply chain.

Delta Diamond

Delta Diamond boasts a robust infrastructure with a 400,000-bushel concrete elevator, a modern seed cleaning plant, warehousing capabilities, and an additional 2.8 acres earmarked for future expansion opportunities. Their facilities can receive a variety of grains, including corn, soybeans, rice, yellow field peas, and more.

What’s more, their extensive network of growers enables them to provide contract growing services, cementing their role as a crucial player in enhancing Black ownership and representation in the agricultural supply chain.

In this interview, we’ll dive deeper into Leigh’s remarkable journey, the acquisition of Big River Grain Co, their commitment to sustainability, and plans for the future.

What was the inspiration behind founding Delta Diamond?

The inspiration of Delta Diamond was driven by the recognition that being vertically integrated and having a diversification of value-added products and services was essential in mitigating risk. 

As the agriculture industry continues to evolve in trends such as consolidation; digitalization; and regenerative farming, I believed that it was critical to ensure that we were at the table not only as producers but, as owners of such a facility.  The appreciation and desire to be engaged in agriculture was instilled in me at a very young age via a multi-generational family history in row crop production in the Arkansas Delta.     

The acquisition of Big River Grain Co. is a significant milestone. What strategic considerations led to this decision? 

Chiefly, location and access: our facility is located in the Mississippi River Delta which as a region utilizes upwards of 60 percent of its land for agricultural purposes. The facility is located only 17 miles from the Mississippi River Port of Rosedale and 100 miles south of Memphis, TN. 

Cleveland is located in Bolivar County, Mississippi’s second-leading county in terms of crop production, and is next door to the historic town of Mound Bayou, which still to this day has a prominent role in agriculture and is home to Alcorn State University’s Extension/Research Farm & Technology Transfer Center. Ultimately, for us to achieve our goals it is imperative that we afford all growers the same level of customer service regardless of their background or the size of their farming operations.

Secondly, the expertise and relationships that the Delta Diamond organization possesses has enabled us to be well-positioned to work with potential businesses and foreign countries as a supplier and partner.  

Finally, the fact that we happen to be minority-owned we hope will serve as a plus to those considering doing business with us, however, at the end of the day we understand that it is our performance and customer service which will distinguish us from our competitors.  Fortunately, our cumulative track record demonstrates just that, and we remain focused on building upon those past successes. 

Delta Diamond

Becoming the first Black-owned multi-grain elevator and seed cleaning facility in the U.S. is a remarkable achievement. How do you plan to leverage this unique position?

Thank you kindly.  We are cognizant of this achievement and consider it a blessing.  That being said, Delta Diamond is in talks with several major corporate entities and producers as we explore mutually beneficial collaborative projects. We hope to bring along the next generation of Black agribusiness entrepreneurs.

Many folks have written off the Mid-South, particularly as it relates to the Delta region.  We appreciate the ability to work with a firm like S3 Procurement Services in accomplishing this goal.  That doesn’t negate the fact that a considerable portion of the best people and hardest workers I know have Delta roots and this is a chance to highlight that to the world. 

Could you elaborate on the sustainable practices and initiatives your company plans to implement in the agricultural sector?

We have already been active in leading and participating in research field trials for products such as non-GMO soybeans.  We certainly believe that a market exists for non-GMOs and specialty grains in ideal places where it makes sense.  This is ultimately predicated on maintaining or improving both productivity and/or profitability for the producer. 

For those companies and producers that do feel it’s feasible and strategically beneficial to their operations, Delta Diamond wants to be a synergistic partner in those sustainable ag efforts.  As for the facility, we are seeking to incorporate the latest technologies like cloud-based analysis, AI, and renewable energy which will allow us to reduce energy costs while operating in an efficient and effective manner. 

Additionally, we will assist our grower partners in identifying premium opportunities and technologies that will provide another tool in revenue generation that may not have been previously accessible to him or her.       

Looking ahead, what are your future plans and aspirations for Delta Diamond?

Near term, our immediate attention is executing the relevant certifications and licenses needed for not only warehousing grain but exporting as well. By doing so it will position us to develop and grow our core business.  We look forward to working with local stakeholders such as the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce, and the greater community, and contributing to the ongoing economic revitalization happening in Cleveland.

Looking further out, we want to be able to move into food processing and that’s where the logistical infrastructure of Memphis comes into play.  I believe that the city of Memphis offers some pretty impressive capabilities to Delta Diamond and our plans for expansion and upscaling.

In the meantime, we are firmly committed to working on having a successful operation.  We hope that Delta Diamond will serve as an inspiration to others who may want to travel down the proverbial “road less traveled” in their respective industry.

by Tony O. Lawson

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4 mins read

Black Farmer’s Are Fighting to Be Saved As The Number of Black Owned Farms Grows Smaller

Black farmers in the U.S. have shouldered many blows, but this time, their livelihoods are seriously at risk of extinction. The days when Black farms flourished around the nation are long gone, and now out of the 3.4 million farmers in the U.S. today, only 45,000 are Black, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

So, what happened? How did we go from nearly 1 million Black farms to fewer than 36,000 today? Black farmers say that a combination of systematic racism, discriminatory government policies, and more recently, the effects of the pandemic have led to their downfall.

Without loans from lenders such as the USDA that allows farmers to buy seed, scale, and support themselves during the times between harvest, Black farmers are forced to shut down their farms and say goodbye to a legacy of agriculture.

According to Natalie Belize, author of “We Are Each Other’s Harvest: Celebrating African American Farmers, Land, and Legacy,”the cycle of the mistreatment of Black farmers has persisted for decades, and its “cascading” effects leaves farmers paralyzed as they face a mountain of growing debt.

And now, with the disproportionate economic and physical effects of the pandemic on Black people, Black farmers require critical help and fast. But just when the government has finally stepped up to the plate to provide financial relief for Black farmers, a judge has pushed back and put the money on hold as white farmers cry reverse discrimination.

If passed, the relief plan proposed by the Biden administration will provide $4 billion in loan forgiveness for socially disadvantaged Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, Alaskan native, Asian American, or Pacific Islander farmers. White farmers are ineligible for relief, hence why they believe that the relief package is unconstitutional.

But non-White farmers have been victims of the mistreatment of the USDA for over a century. Not only were Black people not given the 40 acres and a mule following the Civil War that they were promised, but since then, they have been repeatedly denied loans, forced to foreclose their farms, and watch as white farmers reaped the benefits.

Although the USDA has many spokespersons who say that the institution is committed to eradicating racist and discriminatory practices, many Black farmers just don’t buy it, like John Wesley Boyd Jr.

“I think discrimination is still pervasive. I think that it’s done in a much subtler way,” Boyd said to CBS News. “I don’t think you’re going to see many USDA officials spitting on people now or maybe calling them colored, but they aren’t lending them any money—the way they lend White farmers.”

The relief program that Black farmers have been desperately waiting for is still halted and in the hands of U.S. Judge Marcia Morales Howard. So as white and Black farmers alike wait for a motion to be ruled, all Black farmers can do now is continue to fight and keep hope so that they stay afloat.

Written by Reese Williams

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1 min read

$20 Million Agriculture and Food Investment Fund Aims to Improve Black Health and Wellness

TPP Capital Holdings (TPP) is a Black owned impact fund manager and healthcare real estate development firm on a mission to change the face of Black health by investing in agribusiness, agriculture, indoor vertical farms/greenhouses, farmland development, health-focused food and beverage enterprises with Black and Brown ownership located in federally qualified opportunity zones throughout the country.

To date, TPP has commitments to provide direct investments through Fund I, including a $2M investment commitment in Vertical Harvest LC3, a Jackson, Wyoming, agri-business that has built a profitable sustainable model for urban hydroponic farms. Other commitments include a $5M equity investment in the construction and operation of a 70,000-square-foot greenhouse that will grow one million pounds of fresh produce annually. The site will be accompanied by 50 affordable units housing for farm workers.

In this interview with founders Anthony Miles and Clinton Bush, we discuss TPP’s plan to reduce food deserts, health disparities, and burdens of chronic medical conditions in the Black community. We also discuss how they can help Black entrepreneurs manufacture healthy food and beverage brands.

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Tony O. Lawson

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3 mins read

FAMU Secures $750,000 in Federal Scholarship Funds to Attract Students To Study Agriculture and Food Sciences

Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) College of Agriculture and Food Sciences (CAFS) received $752,632 in federal funds for scholarships to attract high achieving students.

Funding from this 1890 Scholarship Program will provide 49 new scholarships for entering freshmen to pursue and obtain their baccalaureate degrees in food and agricultural sciences from FAMU in four years, and for qualified, transfer students in two years.

“The timing of this scholarship funding could not be more opportune,” said FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D. “The present circumstances reinforce the need for us to train more scholars who can make advances in issues such as food security and create other opportunities in agriculture. These funds will allow FAMU to bring much needed and diverse talent to this area of critical need for our nation.”

The funding is one of 19 awards totaling $14 million to 1890 land grant colleges, which are historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU), from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

The funding is made possible through NIFA’s 1890 Scholarships Program, authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill. FAMU alumnus U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., is credited with the scholarship appropriation’s inclusion in the legislation.

The grant program seeks to address a critical question facing the food and agricultural sciences industry, how does it attract more talented young, diverse persons into agricultural jobs, said CAFS Dean Robert Taylor.

“Indeed, this continues to be the major question that is being asked by faculty and administrators in the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences at FAMU, as it tries to respond to the low, and in some cases, declining enrollment in some of its critical academic programs,” Taylor said.

With state and federal funding for education on the decline, the student debt burden continues to be high. The overall goal of this 1890 Scholarships Program is to address that issue by providing scholarships to support the recruiting, engaging, retaining, mentoring, and training of outstanding students as they pursue baccalaureate degrees in the food and agricultural sciences in CAFS at FAMU.

Scholars will be recruited from across Florida and from neighboring states, such as Georgia and Alabama. High achieving students will be invited to apply to the FAMU 1890 Scholarship Program. In order to be selected, students must meet or exceed the stated criteria for the various scholarships advertised.

“This funding will help CAFS cultivate and graduate more diverse leaders, who will be well equipped to address and solve future emerging challenges in food and agricultural sciences,” Taylor said.


Source: FAMU News

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