Farm supply giant Tractor Supply Co. ends diversity, Pride, climate change initiatives (2024)

Terri Saar has only been shopping at Tractor Supply Co. for about a year. She was in the market for cat food and bird seed, and her niece told her to check out the local store.

Saar was pleasantly surprised at her findings.

“Their prices are good,” Saar said. “They have things that are cheaper and better for animals.”

But Saar’s trip to a Tractor Supply on Friday may just be her last.

Saar learned that the nation’s largest purveyor of farm supplies issued a sweeping new corporate policy that eliminates diversity initiatives, ends ties with Pride festivals and drops support for climate change and voter registration initiatives.

“That’s so sad,” Saar said on Friday after shopping at the Loucks Road store in York. “I’m gay. I don’t put my money generally where they don’t support the LGBTQ community. I don’t put my money where they are against those things.”

Saar is among the Tractor Supply customers reconsidering their shopping habits in the wake of the farm supply giant’s change in corporate policy.

In a statement released Thursday, the Brentwood, Tennessee-based company outlined a policy it says better aligns with its corporate vision.

“We work hard to live up to our Mission and Values every day and represent the values of the communities and customers we serve,” the statement reads. “We have heard from customers that we have disappointed them. We have taken this feedback to heart.”

The company said it now will:

  • no longer submit data to the Human Rights Campaign;
  • refocus our staff engagement groups on mentoring, networking and supporting the business
  • further focus on “rural America” priorities including ag education, animal welfare, veteran causes and “being a good neighbor and stop sponsoring nonbusiness activities like pride festivals and voting campaigns”
  • eliminate DEI roles and retire current DEI goals “while still ensuring a respectful environment”;
  • withdraw our carbon emission goals and focus on our land and water conservation efforts

The 85-year-old company bills itself as a purveyor of supplies to hobby farmers, ranchers, homeowners, gardeners, pet enthusiasts and “all those who enjoy living Life Out Here.”

Tractor Supply is the largest rural lifestyle retailer in the U.S., ranking 291 on the Fortune 500. The company has more than 50,000 employees, operating 2,233 stores in 49 states.

Tractor Supply Company also owns and operates Petsense, a small-box pet specialty supply retailer.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In its corporate statement, the company said it deeply values its relationship with customers and its communities.

“We are passionate about being good neighbors in our hometowns because without you, we would not be what we are,” the statement reads. “It is imperative to us that our customers’ hard-earned dollars are taking care of our Team Members and the communities we all love. As you supported us, we have invested millions of dollars in veteran causes, emergency response, animal shelters, state fairs, rodeos and farmers markets. We have also invested in the future of rural America. We are the largest supporter of FFA and have longstanding relationships with 4-H and other educational organizations.

“We will continue to listen to our customers and Team Members. Your trust and confidence in us are of the utmost importance, and we don’t take that lightly.”

Tractor Supply joins a growing list of corporations that have in recent years scaled back or slashed Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts amid a conservative backlash. The trend follows the landmark ruling last year by the U.S. Supreme Court ending affirmative action in college admissions, a move widely seen as fueling anti-DEI efforts.

Target reduced its Pride Month merchandise at stores after it experienced a backlash and lower sales after it launched a collection honoring LGBTQ+ communities.

Among some of the highest profile corporate movements against DEI initiatives was beer giant’s Bud Light decision to partner with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, a move that generated wide pushback from conservatives.

Some Tractor Supply customers welcomed the new corporate direction.

“Sounds good to me,” said Brian Kleinfelter, who stopped by the Tractor Supply store for some supplies. “I’m all for it. They are pushing that (expletive) way too much. That’s all you hear in the news. They want more and more all the time. Somebody’s gotta soon knock them off their pedestal. They are no better than we are. They need to quit thinking they are.”

Mark Casteel, who stopped in for bird seed at the local York store, was upset but unsure if the new direction would impact his shopping habits.

“It upsets me that they are going that way,” he said. “Will it effect me? I come here to buy bird seed. I don’t know if it will have an impact on whether I buy bird seed from them but it does concern me and I wish they would backtrack on that.”

Charles Kress, who is gay, said he has a plan for letting the retailer know how he feels.

“I have two store credit cards,” he said Friday. “I’m planning to go into the store and cut one up and give it to the manager and then I’m going to cut the other and send it to corporate. I will be working with Agway here on out.”

Kress, a pet owner, said he will not shop at stores that are hostile to the LGBTQ community.

“If we are going to spend money in corporate places, we have to make sure they are allies of the community,” he said.

According to the Institute for Policy Research, boycotts intent on putting financial pressure on a company rarely have impact on sales revenue, largely because consumer spending is habitual. Still, experts say boycotts can threaten a company’s reputation.

Saar said her decision to take her business elsewhere is pretty clear cut.

“I probably will stop shopping here,” she said. “That really makes me upset.”

Stories by Ivey DeJesus

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Farm supply giant Tractor Supply Co. ends diversity, Pride, climate change initiatives (2024)
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