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Deere Responds to DEI Criticisms
By Chris Clayton
Wednesday, July 17, 2024 8:49AM CDT

OMAHA (DTN) -- After a week of attacks on social media, Deere & Co. on Tuesday announced the farm machinery manufacturer would change its polices around sponsorships and would no longer support certain "external or cultural awareness" events while dropping "socially-motivated messages" from policies.

Deere stated it has never had "diversity quotas" in its hiring policies but would "continue to track and advance the diversity of our organization."

Deere's announcement follows similar statements last month from Tractor Supply Co., which also found itself facing conservative social media backlash to its policies surrounding corporate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Both Deere and Tractor Supply found themselves at the center of attack campaigns on social media platforms such as X by a filmmaker and podcaster, Robby Starbuck, a former Republican congressional candidate in Tennessee whose former career was directing music videos. Starbuck first launched attacks in early June against Tractor Supply to "expose" the farm retailer's DEI practices as "woke." By the end of June, Tractor Supply announced changes in its policies.

On July 9, Starbuck posted a video, "It's time to expose John Deere." Starbuck stated on X, "@JohnDeere has been one of the most beloved brands by conservative farmers, but recently on CEO John May's watch, they've gone woke."

Starbuck then launched into a long video pointing to Deere's DEI policies and continued posting a series of videos and photos criticizing Deere for its diversity hires as well as its recent layoff announcements and efforts to move more manufacturing to Mexico. The videos, photos and retweets continued to steamroll, attacking Deere online.

The effort had its intended effect, as Starbuck also posted photos of corporate statements from Deere executives trying to push back on Starbuck's criticisms and ease customer concerns.

On Tuesday, Deere posted a statement on X, "John Deere was founded in America's heartland nearly 200 years ago by an entrepreneur deeply committed to delivering innovative products to its customers. We're proud of this legacy and it continues to drive us to today.

"We deeply value our more than 80,000 global employees who work every day to deliver superior products to our customers. It takes the best people and the best teams to solve our customers' biggest challenges.

"To best serve our customers and employees, Deere is always listening to feedback and looking for opportunities to improve. That's why we consistently prioritize internal policies that more closely align our business strategy to meet the needs of our customers."

Deere pointed to changes last year to corporate guidelines to solely focus on sponsorships supporting the business and brand. Non-profit sponsorships focused on areas "such as hunger, economic development, poverty alleviation, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), agriculture education initiatives, and support for our nation's service members and veterans."

Deere said, "Based on ongoing conversations, we have committed to the following:"

-- We will no longer participate in or support external social or cultural awareness parades, festivals, or events.

-- Business Resource Groups will exclusively be focused on professional development, networking, mentoring, and supporting talent recruitment efforts.

-- Auditing all company-mandated training materials and polices to ensure the absence of socially motivated messages, while being in compliance with federal, state and local laws.

-- Reaffirming within the business that the existence of diversity quotas and pronoun identification have never been and are not company policies.

-- We fundamentally believe that a diverse workforce enables us to best meet our customers' needs and because of that we will continue to track and advance the diversity of our organization.

"We remain committed to listening to our customers, employees, and other key stakeholders. Your trust and confidence in us are of the utmost importance to everyone at John Deere and we fully intend to earn it every day and in every way we can," Deere stated.

Starbuck on X indicated Deere's response was a "half measure" and more should be done.

"Another huge win in our war on wokeness, BUT I don't think this is enough for customers to go back. Customers want to hear that DEI policies are entirely gone and that they will no longer participate in social credit CEI (Corporate Equity Index) by HRC (Human Rights Campaign).

"This half measure shows that we're a powerful force to be reckoned with though. While I'm not completely pleased, I don't want to downplay the fact that this is another massive win. All of you are helping me force corporate America back to sanity. I won't rest until we eliminate leftism from corporate America."

Starbuck also indicated his campaign against corporate policies would continue.

Meanwhile, Deere continues to announce more layoffs. Last week, Deere confirmed it would lay off another 345 production workers at operations in Waterloo, Iowa, the Des Moines Register reported.

Those layoffs follow another 813 workers Deere announced it would lay off in other facilities in Iowa and Illinois starting in September. Combined with earlier layoffs this year, Deere is pushing to cut roughly 2,000 manufacturing employees.

Deere also is looking to cut "global salaried employees" this month. Salaried employees could find out next week if they lose their jobs.

Also see "Deere Continues Cutting Jobs in Midwest Plants" here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on social platform X @ChrisClaytonDTN


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