Recently, we’ve seen some movement towards social justice for Black farmers and landowners. With Executive Order 13985: Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities, we are moving in the right direction, but your feedback and voice can improve this order. Read the order and comment here.
On a related note, the Biden Administration has announced its intention to invest $67M to help heirs resolve land ownership and succession issue. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing $67 million in competitive loans through the new Heirs’ Property Relending Program (HPRP). This program aims to help agricultural producers and landowners resolve heirs’ land ownership and succession issues. Heirs’ property issues have long been a barrier for many producers and landowners to access USDA programs and services. This relending program provides access to capital to help producers find a resolution to these issues. “While those affected are in all geographic and cultural areas, many Black farmers and other groups who have experienced historic discrimination have inherited heirs’ property,” said Danny Hoots Acting State Executive Director for FSA in Arkansas. “USDA is committed to revising policies to be more equitable and examining barriers faced by heirs’ property owners is part of that effort. This helps ensure that we protect the legacy of these family farms for generations to come.” The Heirs’ Property Relending Program is another example of how USDA is working to rebuild trust with America’s farmers and ranchers. HPRP is a loan and will need to be repaid as directed by the 2018 Farm Bill. The program’s benefits go far beyond its participants. It will also keep farmland in farming, protect family farm legacies and support economic viability. Eligible Lenders To be eligible, intermediary lenders must be certified as a community development financial institution and have experience and capability in making and servicing agricultural and commercial loans that are similar in nature. If applications exceed the amount of available funds, those applicants with at least 10 years or more of experience with socially disadvantaged farmers that are located in states that have adopted a statute consisting of enactment or adoption of the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA) will receive first preference. Read more here.
Though progress is in sight, Black farmers and landowners face substantial issues and barriers – it is essential to understand the situation contextually and historically. This article in the Washington Post explains the systematic issues creating barriers to accessing government resources, in this case, disaster recovery to aid Black families.
The Texas Coalition of Rural Landowners (TCRL) was officially registered by the Texas Secretary of State on April 30, 2021, as a nonprofit corporation. The purpose of TCRL is to: (1) Develop unique and effective on-farm training to provide information, skills, and awareness in a cultural context. (2) Assist rural landowners in building strong communities. (3) Build an equitable and sustainable food system that is beneficial to underserved rural landowners by educating them in relevant disciplines of agriculture, and agri-business, and legal issues related to land ownership. (4) Provide assistance to underserved landowners by promoting and fostering an appreciation for scientific agriculture; to acquire knowledge, skills, and positive attitudes on land ownership. TCRL is not a membership-based organization. It is a nonprofit corporation managed by a Board of Directors dedicated to providing services to any producer in the state or nation who has issues maintaining their land. TCRL will utilize the services of retired agriculture professionals from USDA, Extension, Industry, and Production Agriculture to serve as mentors and subject matter thought leaders to assist in supporting its work. TCRL is partnering with the Rural Coalition, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group that advances policy on a national basis related to farms and to assure equity among all groups.
Current board members are George McNary III; Byron L. Riley CPA; Charles Russell; and Dr. Joshua Idassi, Board Advisor. TCRL will announce additional board members in the coming months. Board Chair Billy Lawton stated that “TCRL efforts will focus on outcomes which place the producers we work within a better position to accomplish their goal of maintaining their land in a profitable position.”
If you have questions related to the services TCRL offers or would like to discuss how TCRL can assist you, please email them at TxCRL21@gmail.com.
Find our Saving Texas Freedom Colonies Guidebook here.
At The Texas Freedom Colonies Project, we are continuously working on compiling more resources on land issues. Visit our Black Land Resources page for more helpful links.