USDA Kicks Off Debt Relief Program for Minority Farmers

USDA’s Farm Service Agency released the first notice of funding availability announcing loan payments for eligible borrowers with qualifying direct farm loans. The notice will be published in the Federal Register early next week.

“A subsequent notice addressing guaranteed loan balances and direct loans that no longer have collateral and have been previously referred to the Department of Treasury for debt collection for offset, will be published within 120 days,” the department said.

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan enacted in March required USDA to make payments worth 120% of the qualifying farmers’ indebtedness and included $4 billion for that purpose. The payments are intended to both pay off the loans and to cover the related taxes and fees.

The payments will be broken into two steps, USDA said, including a 20% direct deposit for taxes and fees, and then loan payment from Treasury to USDA to clear the debt.

“The American Rescue Plan has made it possible for USDA to deliver historic debt relief to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers beginning in June,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “USDA is recommitting itself to gaining the trust and confidence of America’s farmers and ranchers using a new set of tools provided in the American Rescue Plan to increase opportunity, advance equity and address systemic discrimination in USDA programs.”

Under the law, Black, Latino or Hispanic, Native American or Alaskan Native, and Asian American or Pacific Islander producers are eligible for the payments. About 85% of the approximately 16,000 qualifying loans affected are direct loans.

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