Washington DC – Members of the world’s largest professional organization of anthropologists are calling on TIAA, one of the largest pension funds in the United States, to stop accumulating farmland.
As the world’s largest manager of farmland, TIAA is expanding its land holdings in the United States, Australia, and parts of South America and Eastern Europe. The company’s farmland deals are disproportionately impacting farmers of color, who already struggle against dispossession by financial forces and government policies. In northeast Brazil, TIAA’s farmland investments are fueling land grabs, deforestation, and forest fires.
On Friday, at an annual conference drawing more than 6,000 scholars and professionals to Vancouver, Canada, members of the American Anthropological Association passed a historic advisory resolution recommending that TIAA halts farmland acquisition. Recommendations include acknowledging the risks of farmland acquisition and meeting with an appointed committee from the Association to begin a discussion of a fair process of returning land to impacted communities.
“TIAA needs to recognize that its members, including anthropologists, oppose taking land out of the hands of local farmers and communities for large-scale agribusiness,” said Doug Hertzler, Senior Policy Analyst at ActionAid USA, who supported the drafting of the resolution. “Members want the firm that manages their retirements to invest in ways that support communities, not undermine them. They don’t want their pensions to come at the expense of people, forests and the climate.”
TIAA has defended its practices by writing its own Principles for Responsible Investment in Farmland. But these principles are not rigorous and do not provide an independent mechanism to ensure that the company’s land acquisitions do not cause harm and that farming practices are sustainable.
“TIAA must come to terms with the human and environmental costs of its farmland investments,” Hertzler said. “With the American Anthropological Association’s new advisory resolution, TIAA has an opportunity to show it is willing to make truly responsible investments in food and agriculture. Responsible investments do not take over land but rather create opportunities for communities, uphold human rights and protect the environment.”
ActionAid USA is a social justice nonprofit working in more than 50 countries to end poverty and injustice. ActionAid USA has pensions with TIAA and is part of a grassroots coalition to get TIAA out of farmland and forests.
Available for interview: Doug Hertzler, Policy Analyst, ActionAid USA, firstname.lastname@example.org