USDA new heir estate loan program

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Senator Rafael Warnock, a Democrat from Georgia, said too many farmers in Georgia lack legal paperwork to keep the farm safe and hand it over to their families. Warnock said about a third of the black lands in the south of the country are considered heirs. Warnock added that this is no coincidence and stems from generations of discrimination against black farmers in agriculture.

“The estate of the heirs poses a real and immediate threat to the ownership and ability of these farmers to create multigenerational welfare for their families,” Warnock said.

Warnock added that he and Senator Tim Scott, RS.C., are working with the Senate Appropriations Committee to raise additional funds to help the program. Rep. Sanford Bishop, Georgia, chair of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, also worked on similar funding from the House of Representatives.

Bishop said the landowners who own the heirs are in trouble because all landowners must agree on land-use decisions on that basis. There was also a story of investors who came and stole land from farmers.

Rep. Cherie Bustos of Illinois has indicated that she is a white woman who represents mostly white farmers in her northwestern Illinois area. She noted that of the 9,600 family farms in her area, the USDA agriculture census shows only one black farmer. Fifteen years ago, there were at least 13 black farmers in the area. “It’s still an unfortunate, unfortunate low number, but going from 13 to 1 is a 92% drop over that time period,” Bustos said. “So why do we need one black farmer. So, if you look at history, it all comes together. “

Bustos said that during her time on the committee, she heard about harassment of black farmers and denial of services at the USDA or about delays in filing applications. “We’ve heard about them being pushed out of family property,” Bustos said. She added: “This is nothing more than a tragedy, this is a shame.”

Jenny Stevens, general manager of the Heir Estate Conservation Center in Charleston, South Carolina, said the lending program would help “unlock the wealth” of land that was not available to black farmers. Her team worked to resolve 285 land ownership issues for farmers on an area of ​​approximately 1,400 acres. Stevens pointed to the story of a family farm offering the chance to sell 300 acres of forest, but a name search revealed that the land was owned by heirs. Her organization was able to help clear the ownership of the land sale.

“So I just want to re-emphasize how important it is for families to have access or the ability to have access to the means to resolve their title,” Stevens said.

Dania Davy, who runs farms and estates for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, pointed to farmers in Alabama trying to keep their farm, but one of the heirs sold his shares to a non-family member who doesn’t have the same purpose for the property. “The risk is that a non-family member can file a separation petition at any time,” Davy said. The loan program will allow the family to buy back a share in the land and get legal help so that this does not happen again.

The USDA will try to expand coverage to train farmers and landowners in the loan program, although it is unclear how many landowners will be eligible for the loan program at this time.

“I don’t think we fully know how many farmers this program can have a positive impact until we tweak it and see what the demand for help is,” Vilsack said. “But I think it’s fair to say that there are probably thousands of landowners in the countryside today who can be positively influenced.”

In addition, the USDA announced nearly $ 1 million to universities and nonprofits to raise the level of risk management training for underserved farmers and ranchers. Various projects will include training in federal crop insurance, forest fire preparedness, financial management, record keeping and risk analysis.

More information about the heir loan program can be found on the website https://www.farmers.gov/…

Chris Clayton can be contacted at: Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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