Oct 14, 2022USDA seeking public comment on new provision to provide assistance to ag producers who have experienced discrimination
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking public comment on how it should implement Section 22007 of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a provision that aims to provide assistance to the nation’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who experienced discrimination in USDA’s farm lending programs.
Section 22007 provides a transformative opportunity for USDA to help farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners impacted by discrimination in USDA farm lending programs. IRA Section 22007 directs USDA to provide financial assistance to producers who have experienced discrimination in USDA’s farm lending programs and has appropriated $2.2 billion for this purpose.
“The historic Inflation Reduction Act gives USDA important tools to help provide justice to those that have been discriminated against,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These actions further build on USDA’s commitment to use all the tools it has available to help farmers. The Biden-Harris Administration is deeply committed to upholding civil rights, advancing equity, and doing right by agricultural producers, especially those who USDA’s programs have not fully served. When combined with specialized technical assistance, improved programs focusing on land access and retention, and our equity efforts, Section 22007 provides another tool to achieve our shared vision of supporting those who are willing to dedicate their lives to our nation’s food security and rural communities.”
This request for information is an important step in making sure farmers, advocates, academics, legislators, tribal governments, and other experts who have important perspectives that must be incorporated to assist USDA in implementing these provisions to fulfill the intent of Congress. Over the last 25 years, USDA participated in complex discrimination claims resolution processes in the Pigford, In re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation (Pigford 2), Garcia, Love, and Keepseagle cases. These resolution processes raised difficult questions concerning eligibility, timeliness, standards of proof of discrimination, methods of appropriate outreach and assistance to farmers, the amounts of compensation, and the implementation of oversight measures to ensure that all contractors executed a strong process to ensure that eligible farmers received payments.
USDA recognizes that farmers in these cases did not always feel that their concerns were heard or reflected in the design of the past discrimination claims resolution processes. USDA is seeking public comment on how this program should be designed and implemented because we cannot do this right without input from farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners.
The request for information asks several questions on how USDA should design and administer the program. For example, the request asks for suggestions on how USDA should use its programs, funding and authorities to encourage support for former farm lending borrowers. The request for information also asks how USDA should identify former borrowers who experienced discrimination.
Additionally, the request asks what criteria USDA should use to select a third party (or parties) to administer the program. Once the comment period closes, USDA will review all comments received through the Federal Register notice and provided by the public during the three scheduled listening sessions (PDF, 140 KB). These recommendations will be considered by USDA staff as they design the final program. For more information on IRA Section 22007 and to find out how to submit your comments, please go to www.federalregister.gov/d/
The 30-day comment period opens Friday, October 14, and closes on November 14, 2022. USDA values your input and welcomes all comments.
USDA is aggressively implementing the provisions of the IRA to support farmers and ranchers, including:
- More than $100 million to ensure equitable access to USDA programs and services (PDF, 105 KB) among underserved producers through technical assistance, administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
- Up to $300 million to improve land access, administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA)
- $250 million for eligible minority-serving institutions to create career development opportunities for next generation agricultural leaders, administered by NIFA.