USDA’s Discrimination Financial Assistance Program (Keeping the Farm)
(Editor’s note: Laura Pleasanton is a state outreach coordinator with Farm Service Agency-Maryland.)
I want to highlight an effort that is important to the USDA in its focus on ensuring it is a department that is equitable for all producers across the nation.
In July, the USDA opened the application period for Section 22007 of the Inflation Reduction Act, which directs USDA to provide financial assistance to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who experienced discrimination in USDA farm lending programs prior to January 2021.
Since the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law in August 2022, USDA has worked to set up all aspects of the program in accordance with the Inflation Reduction Act, the Federal Acquisition Regulation, and significant stakeholder input. Congress authorized $2.2 billion for the program.
It is an important step in USDA’s ongoing work to build a more inclusive, equitable USDA that is trusted by and accessible to everyone who wants to participate in agriculture.
It represents the commitment of providing financial assistance to those who have faced discrimination in USDA farm lending programs.
The application process is open now and will close on Oct. 31.
Borrowers have the option to apply for assistance online via 22007apply.gov or through a paper-based form.
Details about the program, including an application and e-filing portal, are available at 22007apply.gov.
The website includes an English and Spanish language application that applicants can download or submit via an e-filing portal, information on how to obtain technical assistance in-person or virtually, and additional resources and details about the program.
Applicants can also call the free call center at 1-800-721-0970, or visit one of several dozen brick-and-mortar offices the program has set up around the country (these are not the county agricultural service centers that may first come to mind).
Locations are provided on the program website and vendors will update the local events schedule with more information as it becomes available.
In-person assistance can be found at these events. These vendors will sometimes be present at events on their own, and other times you may see them near FSA exhibit tables conducting their own outreach at events where FSA has already reserved a spot.
While FSA offices are not managing the program and cannot help people with their applications, they can direct applicants to local or online resources. FSA offices also have basic information about the program on hand.
Farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who experienced discrimination by USDA in its farm loan programs prior to January 1, 2021, and/or are currently debtors with assigned or assumed USDA farm loan debt that was the subject of USDA discrimination that occurred prior to Jan. 1, 2021, are eligible for this program.
Under the planned timeline, applications will be reviewed in November and December, with payments reaching recipients soon thereafter.
Applicants should know that the application process is not on a first come, first served, basis.
All applications received or postmarked before the Oct. 31 deadline will be considered.
The application process will provide producers who have experienced lending discrimination by USDA the opportunity to be heard and to receive financial assistance.
To support producers throughout the application process, USDA is ensuring that organizations with extensive experience conducting outreach to farm organizations are able to assist individuals who may be eligible for the program.
These groups include AgrAbility, the Farmer Veteran Coalition, Farmers’ Legal Action Group, Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Intertribal Agriculture Council, Land Loss Prevention Program, National Young Farmers Coalition, and Rural Coalition.
I want to emphasize that USDA has become aware of some lawyers and groups spreading misinformation about the discrimination assistance process, pressuring people to sign retainer agreements, and asking people to fill out forms with private and sensitive information. Please be aware that the official application process and filling out an application is free and does not require a lawyer.
For more information, please visit 22007apply.gov.
If you would like to receive weekly updates on the program’s events and progress, there’s a button there to subscribe to a weekly newsletter.