Policy Update: USDA Progress on Heirs’ Property Relending Program
On Thursday, July 29, USDA announced that it will provide $67 million for the Heirs’ Property Relending Program, which was authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill but has yet to be implemented. The program will open in late August, and will provide low-interest loans to lending institutions which will in turn provide low-interest loans to producers to resolve ownership issues.
Heirs’ property is a form of fractionated property ownership that generally occurs when the previous owner passed away without a will. Because the land has no sole owner, it creates barriers for accessing government programs, and opens the land up to forced partition sales. While heirs’ property impacts many communities across the nation, it is a particular challenge for Black property owners in the Southeast. Resolving ownership usually means one producer buying the rights to the property from the other owners. More information on heirs’ property can be found here.
The Heirs’ Property Relending Program will prioritize lending to institutions that have experience working with socially disadvantaged farmers and that are located in states that have adopted the Uniform Partition of Heirs’ Property Act, a state law designed to protect the rights of heirs’ property owners.
Many organizations, including AFT, have been calling for the program to be implemented. Last year, AFT sent a letter to USDA asking for the Department to release the program’s final rule. Earlier today, we submitted comments to USDA on Advancing Racial Equity which contained the same recommendation.