Drax, a producer and user of sustainable biomass for wood pellets, is partnering with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives to help African American farmers and landowners in the South have access to the biomass market.
Drax has 19 operational pellet plants and developments including ones in Demopolis and Aliceville, Alabama. The company produces 5 million tons of pellets a year, with a goal of increasing that to 8 million tons a year by 2030. The pellets are produced using materials sourced from sustainably managed working forests and are supplied to third-party customers in Europe and Asia for generation of renewable power.
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund is a 55-year-old regional cooperative and rural economic development organization serving Black farmers, landowners and cooperatives with co-op development, land retention and advocacy.
Through a memorandum of cooperation, the two entities will work to enhance outreach, education, market access and community engagement in the region’s forestry supply chain. It also will work to procure fiber from small and historically underserved landowners where possible.
“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 supports jobs, opportunities and economic benefits in our communities.”
Biomass plays a role in sustainable management by providing a reliable source of income that incentivizes smaller landowners to maintain their forest land and encourages good forest stewardship. The market provides an outlet for low-value wood and waste products from the timber industry. It also allows forest owners to sell thinnings — smaller trees removed to maximize the health and growth of the remaining trees in a working forest.
“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.