On March 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture took the first steps in its process for providing financial assistance to farmers, ranchers or forest landowners who have previously suffered discrimination with respect to USDA farm lending programs.
The agency also set a target of distributing the allocated funds, which were authorized by the Inflation Reduction Act, to borrowers by the end of 2023. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which became law in August 2022, has appropriated $2.2 billion for this program. Under the law, the USDA secretary is responsible for administering the assistance through qualified nongovernmental entities under standards set by USDA.
The agency will issue contracts to nongovernmental program administrators, as the IRA specifies, that will coordinate the delivery of a national program of financial assistance to impacted farmers, ranchers or forest landowners. The vendors will include a national administrator to oversee the program and four regional hubs that will be set up to solicit and process applications. USDA also will partner with community-based organizations across the country with experience in agriculture and reach into underserved communities. The agency anticipates final selection of the vendors managing the program to occur by late Spring 2023.
In addition, USDA plans reach out to trusted cooperators that can further assist eligible farmers and landowners nearer to their locations. They will be drawn from those with long-standing experience in agriculture technical assistance, outreach, and support for the farming community. Organizations such as existing USDA cooperators that are interested in serving as partners should email [email protected] by March 10, 2023, to have the name and contact information of their organization added to a list of potential partner organizations that will be made available to all regional hub interested vendors interested.