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In August, I provided an Update on USDA’s Debt Relief Plan for Black and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers, and I told you that I would let you know when the USDA announced the start of its program to provide $2.2 billion for financial assistance to farmers, ranchers or forest landowners who have previously suffered discrimination with respect to USDA farm lending programs. Well, last Wednesday, on March 1st, the USDA announced that it will issue contracts “soon” to the nongovernmental program administrators who will coordinate the delivery of the financial assistance to impacted borrowers. This is the first step in what the agency has said would be a program with a target to distribute the funds by the end of 2023. Keep reading for additional information about the program.
The program, established as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, specifically provides for the $2.2 billion to go toward financial assistance, including the cost of any financial assistance, to farmers, ranchers, or forest landowners determined to have experienced “discrimination” prior to January 1, 2021, in USDA farm lending programs. It allows any farmer, of any race, to receive assistance up to $500,000 “as determined to be appropriate based on any consequences experienced from the discrimination.”
In its March 1st announcement, the USDA said the administrators will include a national administrator to oversee the program and four regional hubs that will solicit and process applications for assistance. The hubs are encouraged to partner with organizations with experience in agriculture, and specifically organizations that work with and represent underserved producers and have a relationship with USDA.
Organizations interested in serving as partners to the regional hubs can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by March 10, 2023, to have their organization added to a list of interested potential partners.
In addition, USDA says that it will partner with community-based organizations with experience in agriculture and connections in underserved communities to conduct outreach and ensure potential applicants know about the program and have the opportunity to apply. Organizations that would like to be cooperators should send an email to email@example.com by March 31, 2023.
The USDA expects to have the administrators selected by late Spring 2023. Then, once the administrators, hubs, and cooperators are selected and ready to begin the application process, the USDA will work with them to get the word out about the specific application details.
You can find more information about equity efforts at the USDA by visiting usda.gov/equity. And keep watching this space for further updates on the USDA’s debt relief programs as we learn about them.