Alabama Senator Doug Jones is set to be the keynote speaker at a celebration for National
Co-op Month with members of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund 

Epes, Alabama - The Federation of Southern Cooperatives will celebrate National Co-op Month at its training center in Epes, Alabama . US Senator Doug Jones of Alabama will serve as the keynote speaker at the October 31st Co-op’s Month Celebration and Symposium: Cooperatives are the Cornerstone of Rural Economies . His address will focus on an important issue affecting rural farmers, black land owners , cooperatives, and rural communities - Heirs Property The causes of under-utilization and loss of rural black land are numerous and complex, but none is more notable than heirs property.  Heirs Property  is created when a landowner dies without a will, or any other form of estate planning, for the transfer of ownership of land to another prior to death. Subsequently, heirs property owners do not have clear title to the land they own. Today, it is estimated that over 60% of all black owned land is heirs property.

  “One of the key issues for heirs property owners is the lack of access to many USDA programs. These program resources help heirs property owners develop their land in a way that provides some economic independence. We are excited because Sen. Jones has been a strong champion on this issue”, said Monica Rainge, Director of Land Retention and Advocacy for the Federation. Sen. Jones and Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio successfully led efforts that resulted in the inclusion of legislation addressing heirs property in the 2018 Farm Bill. The proposed bill, “The Fair Access for Farmers and Ranchers Act of 2018” will provide statutory authority in the 2018 Farm Bill to allow producers farming on land that is held by undivided interests without administrative authority to secure access to USDA programs. 

The symposium and celebration will begin at 9:00 AM(CST), at the Federation’s Rural Training and Research Center in Epes. Attendees will also attend workshops geared to promote best practice models for handling heirs property, cooperative development, and regional marketing. Many of the region’s cooperative members and community leaders from the Alabama Black Belt and beyond will be in attendance.   Jones will deliver his keynote during lunch at 11:30 AM. The symposium will conclude at 2:00 PM

Co-op Month has been nationally recognized in October since 1964. The month is a time for co-ops to reflect on their shared principles and to educate everyone about the value of belonging to a cooperative. According to Cornelius Blanding, the Executive Director of the Federation, “In the South, cooperatives are still being formed out of necessity to combat issues that are relevant to today’s economic, social, and political landscape. Access to credit and markets, food security, land preservation, and climate change are all issues directly impacting the longevity of rural families. Cooperatives are vital and continue to enable rural families to retain their land, expand upon it and pass it on to a new generation."

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund’s overall mission has been to reverse the trend of black land loss and be a catalyst for the development of self supporting communities’, cooperative development, land retention and advocacy. For over 51 years, the Federation has provided education and technical assistance to thousands of heirs property owners across the South and fostered cooperatives. In support of this mission, the Federation established its Regional Heirs Property and Mediation Center in 2017 to coordinate a collaborative network of partnerships and resources to address the systemic problems associated with heirs property throughout the region.

For event information and to reserve your seat, please RSVP for the event. Telephone: (205) 652-9676, Email:
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, entering its 51 th year, assist limited resource farmers, landowners, and cooperatives across the South with business planning, debt restructuring, marketing expertise, and a whole range of other services to ensure the retention of land ownership and cooperatives as a tool for social and economic justice.