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USDA providing $67M in loans related to heirs’ land ownership

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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing $67 million in competitive loans through the new Heirs’ Property Relending Program, which aims to help agricultural producers and landowners resolve heirs’ land ownership and succession issues. Intermediary lenders — cooperatives, credit unions, and nonprofit organizations – can apply for loans up to $5 million at 1 percent interest once the Farm Service Agency opens the two-month signup window in late August

After FSA selects the lenders, heirs can apply directly to those lenders for loans and assistance. Heirs’ property is a complex issue that involves land passed from generation to generation without standardized legal paperwork, often the result of an ancestor who died without a will. More than 60 percent of Black farmers currently operate on heirs’ property.

Heirs’ property issues have long been a barrier for many producers and landowners to access USDA programs and services, and this relending program provides access to capital to help producers find a resolution to these issues.

“While those affected are in all geographic and cultural areas, many Black farmers and other groups who have experienced historic discrimination have inherited heirs’ property,” Vilsack said. “USDA is committed to revising policies to be more equitable and examining barriers faced by heirs’ property owners is part of that effort. This helps ensure that we protect the legacy of these family farms for generations to come.”

The new loans through the Heirs’ Property Relending Program were announced with the support from a handful of lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and U.S. Reps. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. and Cheri Bustos.

The program’s benefits go far beyond its participants. It is intended to keep farmland in farming, protect family farm legacies, and support economic viability.

Eligible lenders

To be eligible, intermediary lenders must be certified as a community development financial institution and have experience and capability in making and servicing agricultural and commercial loans that are similar in nature.

If applications exceed the amount of available funds, those applicants with at least 10 years or more of experience with socially disadvantaged farmers that are located in states that have adopted a statute consisting of enactment or adoption of the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act will receive first preference. A list of these states is available at farmers.gov/heirs/relending. A secondary preference tier is established for those that have applications from ultimate recipients already in process, or that have a history of successfully relending previous HPRP funds. When multiple applicants are in the same tier, or there are no applicants in tier 1 or 2, applications will be funded in order of the date the application was received.

Selected intermediary lenders will determine the rates, terms, and payment structure for loans to heirs. Interest rates will be the lowest rate sufficient for intermediaries to cover cost of operating and sustaining the loan.

Additional information for lenders, including how to apply for funding, can be found in the HPRP final rule (PDF, 387 KB). A webinar will be held Tuesday, August 3, 2021 regarding applying for funding. Interested re-lender should register through the FSA Outreach and Education webpage.

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