Drax, the world’s leading producer and user of sustainable biomass, has announced a new partnership with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives that will help African American farmers, landowners and cooperatives in the U.S. South with greater access to the biomass market, further encouraging sustainable forestry management.
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund is a 55-year-old regional cooperative and rural economic development organization that serves a membership of Black farmers, landowners and cooperatives, with co-op development, land retention and advocacy. Through a jointly committed Memorandum of Cooperation with Drax, the two will work together to enhance outreach, education, market access and community engagement in the region’s forestry supply chain.
The partnership includes a commitment to develop a shared understanding of what environmental justice means for small forest owners and the biomass industry. This includes building a program of work that creates greater access to a fiber market that has historically been dominated by larger landowners and previously excluded African American landowners.
“This partnership with Drax will help us further in our goals to tackle historic land rights issues by empowering these smaller forest landowners with training and resources which will enable them to access the forest markets,” said Freddie Davis III, Director of The Federation of Southern Cooperatives Rural Training and Research Center.
“Access to forest markets is critical in a landowners’ ability to manage their forests sustainably. It benefits the broader forest products industry and helps support jobs, opportunities and economic benefits in our communities. It also helps keep forests as forests – benefiting carbon stocks and biodiversity,” said Davis.
Biomass plays a critical role in the sustainable management of forests in the U.S. by providing a reliable source of income that incentivizes smaller landowners to maintain their forest land and encourages them to adopt good forest stewardship principles.
“Drax is committed to supporting the communities where we operate, and this partnership with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives is an important step in helping owners of smaller areas of land to benefit financially from the biomass industry while also stimulating sustainable forestry management across the U.S.,” said Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax.
“This will benefit many small farmers, suppliers and related businesses and help pave the way toward redressing the balance and advancing equity in the forest products industry in the U.S. South,” said Gardiner. The nature of the vast and abundant forestry resources in the U.S. South has encouraged economies of scale which have disadvantaged many small forest landowners, such as those represented by the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund.