USDA Launches Debt Relief Program for Minority Farmers
On Friday, the ministry’s Agricultural Services Agency released the first funding availability notice announcing loan repayments for eligible borrowers with eligible direct farm loans. The notice will be published in the Federal Register early next week.
“A subsequent notice regarding guaranteed loan balances and direct loans that are no longer collateralized and which were previously referred to the Treasury Department for debt collection for compensation, will be issued within 120 days,” said the Department.
The US $ 1.9 trillion bailout passed in March required the USDA to make payments worth 120% of the debt of eligible farmers. Payments are intended both to repay loans and to cover related taxes and fees.
The payments will be split into two stages, the USDA said, including a 20% direct deposit for taxes and fees, and then paying the Treasury loan to the USDA to write off the debt.
âThe US bailout allowed USDA to provide historic debt relief to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers starting in June,â Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “USDA is once again committed to earning the trust of American farmers and ranchers by using a new set of tools provided in the US bailout to increase opportunity, advance fairness and fight systemic discrimination in USDA programs. â
By law, Black, Latin American or Hispanic, Native American or Alaskan, and Asian American or Pacific Islander producers are eligible for payments. About 85% of the approximately 16,000 eligible loans concerned are direct loans.
âFor much of USDA’s history, socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers have faced discrimination – sometimes overt and sometimes through deep-rooted rules and policies – that have kept them from achieving as much as their counterparts who do not face these documented acts of discrimination. The USDA said.
Over the past three decades, the USDA has said that “several major civil rights lawsuits have compensated farmers for specific acts of discrimination,” but added that “these settlements and other related actions have not addressed the systemic and cumulative effects of discrimination over several decades. the US bailout is now starting to be discussed.
NOFA defines “eligible beneficiary” as “an individual or entity”, that is to say:
- “A borrower or co-borrower with direct loans eligible for FSA on January 1, 2021; all eligible direct borrowers are included in this initial announcement, except those who no longer have collateral or an active farm and whose loan was previously referred to the Treasury Department for debt collection for set-off; and
- âA member of a socially disadvantaged group, as shown in FSA records at the time a payment is made. For entities and married couples, at least one person personally liable as a borrower or co-borrower of the debt must be a member of a disadvantaged group; or
- “An estate of a deceased qualifying beneficiary.”
More information is available at www.farmers.gov/americanrescueplan.
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