Tractor Supply bows to pressure and vows to cut DEI roles, sparking protests


One of the nation’s largest farm-supply retailers announced Thursday that it would cut diversity-focused positions and roll back its carbon-emissions goals in response to right-wing pressure, sparking an uproar from other customers and advocacy groups.

Tractor Supply Company made the changes following customer criticism about some of its programs, the Tennessee-based business said in a statement. It also vowed to stop submitting data to the LGBTQ+ advocacy group, Human Rights Campaign, and no longer sponsor Pride festivals and voting initiatives.

“We've heard from customers that we've let them down,” the company said. “We take this feedback seriously.”

The move was celebrated by conservative activists – and the general public expressed concern Other, This includes a New York animal sanctuary, an LGBTQ+ organization, and an association that aims to support Black farmers.

Tractor Supply did not respond to The Washington Post's request for comment on Saturday.

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The company finds itself at a crossroads between customers with different political beliefs. Last year, Bud Light's sales dropped after it ran an ad featuring a transgender social media influencer, and Target lost business after it unveiled a Pride Month collection. And while a conservative As legal campaigns erode corporate and government diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs, some companies are privately rebranding their DEI policies.

Tractor Supply, which sells animal feed, tractor parts and power equipment at more than 2,230 stores nationwide, was recognized last year for its inclusive approach. Bloomberg praised it for promoting gender equality, while Newsweek named it one of the best U.S. companies for diversity.

“Our deep mission and values ​​are the foundation of who we are as an organization,” Melissa Kersey, Tractor Supply’s executive vice president, said in a statement in February 2023. “They dictate that Tractor Supply prioritizes a safe, respectful, and inclusive work environment that values ​​diversity of thought and perspective.”

But the company came under scrutiny this month when conservative podcast host Robby Starbuck denounced Tractor Supply's diversity and climate policies. Starbuck told The Washington Post that an employee recently messaged him to complain about the company's support of LGBTQ+ groups.

He said Starbuck went to Tractor Supply every week to buy supplies for his farm in Franklin, Tennessee, but he was not satisfied with the company's money spent on inclusion programs.

“Until Tractor Supply makes real changes, start buying what you can from other places,” he wrote on X on June 6.

Other customers also said they would join the boycott, and the company's stock price fell by 5 percent last month, according to the Financial Times.

Starbucks and other conservative X users, including TikTok’s Libs, publicly celebrated when Tractor Supply said it would roll back many of its policies.

“It’s about getting back to an environment where businesses are just businesses again, and they’re not representative of social values ​​or political values,” Starbuck told The Post.

Others were not so happy.

John Boyd Jr., founder of the National Black Farmers Association, an advocacy group for African American farmers, told The Post that Tractor Supply is “sending the wrong message to America.” Boyd said that in his four decades as a farmer, he has seen that White Farmer , In 2017, about 95 percent were farmers , Spitting The “N” word was used on the faces of Black farmers.

“We're stepping back,” Boyd said of Tractor Supply's decision.

Squirrelwood Equine Sanctuary, an animal sanctuary in Montgomery, New York, said Tractor Supply will no longer receive the more than $65,000 annually it normally spends there.

“You have cost us our business and every shred of respect we might have had,” the sanctuary wrote on the X.

Eric Bloom, vice president of programs and corporate advocacy for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement to The Post that Tractor Supply is “turning its back on its own neighbors.” Tennessee state Sen. Charlene Oliver (D) wrote on X that the company is “choosing to embody hate and bigotry.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, president of the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, said Tractor Supply had “harmed their LGBTQ customers and employees.”

“Tractor Supply’s shameful surrender to the petty whims of anti-LGBTQ extremists further alienates the company from the vast majority of Americans who support their LGBTQ friends, family, and neighbors,” Ellis said in a statement to The Post.

DEI programs became popular at many organizations during the racial-justice movement that began after the killing of George Floyd in 2020. But there was soon a fierce backlash from critics who claimed the policies created new inequities.

Frank Dobbin, a Harvard University sociology professor who researches corporate diversity programs, said it's rare for companies to publicly announce rolling back diversity programs. Depending on how the move affects Tractor Supply's business, the company could be a “test case” for whether other organizations announce similar cuts, Dobbin said.

“Will this be applicable to a lot of other companies as well?” Dobbin asked. “Or will this be a lesson that other companies take, that you don’t want to back down in trying to promote equality?”

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