The Federation of Southern Cooperatives is offering support for farm workers looking to apply to a US$2.2bn (£1.68bn) fund for people who experienced discrimination in Department of Agriculture (USDA) lending programmes before 2021.
The federation, a 56-year-old co-operative association of Black farmers, landowners, and co-ops working to promote economic development, land retention, and advocacy for rural communities, was chosen by the USDA to offer the support.
Described by the federation as “one step in the long march towards justice and an inclusive, equitable USDA”, the programme is party of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and complements other measures in the legislation such as assistance for distressed borrowers.
Those eligible for the Discrimination Financial Assistance Program (DFAP) include farmers, ranchers and forest landowners who have experienced discrimination by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency or the Farmer’s Home Administration in a farm loan programme before 1 January 2021. Covered USDA lending programs include Farm Ownership Loans, Farm Operating Loans, Microloans, Youth Loans, Farm Storage Facility Loans, Economic Emergency Loans, Emergency Livestock Loans, Soil and Water Loans, Conservation Loans, Softwood Timber Loans and Grazing Loans.
Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack said: “USDA will continue to work with our national vendor partners and community-based organisations to make sure eligible farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners have clear information about what is available to them, how to apply, and where to obtain assistance with their questions at each step of the way.”
There is no cost to apply for DFAP, and free application assistance is being provided by eight USDA approved community organisations including the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, AgrAbility, the Farmer Veteran Coalition, Farmers’ Legal Action Group, Intertribal Agriculture Council, Land Loss Prevention Project, National Young Farmers Coalition, and Rural Coalition.
The federation has warned applicants to avoid non-official groups and individuals offering to support applications for a fee.
“We want to make sure you and everyone that you know knows that there is no fee to apply, or to receive assistance to apply, for the Discrimination Financial Assistance Programme”, said Dãnia Davy, FSC’s director of Land Retention and Advocacy.