Date of Award
Master of Public Administration (MPA)
Dr. Andrew Ewoh
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives (FSC) is an organization that grew out of the Civil Rights Movement. It was founded in 1967 when 22 cooperatives held their first meeting at Atlanta University. In 1985, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives merged with the Emergency Land Assistance Fund and became the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund (FSC/LAF) to address African American land loss. John Zippert, one of the founding members, put together the organization structure of the FSC in 1967 and the FSC/LAF has used the same to this day (Federation of Southern Cooperatives 2013).
The FSC/LAF provides training and resources to its members primarily to save family farms for African Americans, to offer them a wide range of services in consulting to help them build critical skills to sustain rural and economic development, as well as to provide them a political voice to government policymakers. The FSC/LAF also is also involved in a wide range of services including technical assistance, research, and training in agriculture and cooperative development. In addition, the FSC/LAF has always played an important advocacy role at the state and federal level to increase awareness about the issues and challenges that African American and other underserved farmers face and for more equitable distribution of public resources such as those in the Farm Bill.
Organizations like the FSC/LAF seek to address the problems that minority farmers, especially African American farmers, face and develop and implement programs that positively affect the minority farming communities. African American land loss is an epidemic that started in the early 1900s and still occurs at an alarming rate even today. The large acreage of land that African American owned from 1875 to the 1900s faced a sharp decline because various threats started to surface. In his article titled A History of African American Farmer Cooperatives, 1938- 2000, Bruce Reynolds states that “the amount of acreage owned by non-white farmers in the South peaked at 12.8 million acres in 1910, whereas today, they own less than 2.3 million acres” (Reynolds 2007, 5). This rapid decline that occurred in the 1900s was due mostly because of object and devious racist prejudices by White people, because of unethical policies and practices that put African American farmers at a disadvantage, unfair loans or refusal of loans from commercial banks, and heir property and partition sale issues.
For the past 45 years, the Federation has been advocating for equitable access to resources for underserved minority farmers by working for changes in government policies, equal treatment from commercial banks, and by proving education and training. The FSC/LAF’s fight for economic justice for African American farmers in rural communities is more relevant today when poverty and other social disparities are increasing in rural America. The work that the FSC/LAF does is tireless and never ending, because civil right issues still exist in the United States. By providing its members legal assistance, technical assistance, education and training, financial assistance, and community organizing, this organization is trying to maintain social equity in the African American farming community despite many challenges.