Black Land Resources

Introducing the Black Land Resources Page: Land Retention Specialist, Valentina Aduen

Valentina’s role with the Black Land Resources Page is to curate and maintain a repository of resources related to Black land retention. Most importantly, though, she makes sure that policy and information is accessible to descendant communities. Part of her role as the land retention specialist for TxFCP is serving as a liaison between descendants and state-based legal aid. She is currently working on a case study format for recording descendants’ legal struggles regarding their land issues as a systematically recorded legal history. She specializes in heirs’ property rights and involuntary land-loss prevention.

Disclaimer: The information in this website is provided solely for general informational and educational purposes and it is not intended to constitute nor substitute legal advice. Nor should it be construed as an offer to perform future legal services. If you think you need legal advice, please consult a state-licensed attorney in your area. Additionally, to the degree this website and concomitant materials include links and other information regarding third party websites, such information is offered for the user’s convenience and does not constitute an endorsement by The Texas Freedom Colonies Project.

Where can I go to learn more about heirs property issues?

The Federation is a non-profit cooperative association of black farmers, landowners, and cooperatives.

Provides legal support and advocacy in North Carolina for financially distressed and limited resource farmers involves action in three separate arenas:  litigation, public policy, and promoting sustainable agriculture and environment.

Provides legal education, forestry management training, and direct legal services to farmers in South Carolina.

How do I clear my title? (If you live in a family home, you are a part owner of a property or home, or you were denied disaster recovery assistance because you are not the primary owner, this guidebook is for you.)

Courtesy of: Lone Star Legal Aid

https://lonestarlegal.blog/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/19-0830_CLEAR_TITLE_english_spreads.pdf

19-0830_CLEAR_TITLE_english_spreads

What is the UPHPA (Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act) and how does it help me?

Courtesy of: The Uniform Law Commission

https://www.uniformlaws.org/HigherLogic/System/DownloadDocumentFile.ashx?DocumentFileKey=1166a210-6868-cacb-32dd-20624634c8d8&forceDialog=0

UPHPA_Summary_Feb 2019_ADA

Land Ownership and Estate Planning Legal Vocabulary 101 Factsheet

Legal VocABULARY

How do I start the process of getting a farm number or resolving other heirs property issues with my farm?

Your first step should be contacting the FSA office at your local USDA Service Center. Find your local USDA Service Center at www.farmers.gov/service-locator.

There are different rules for establishing yourself as a farm operator or a farm owner. This fact sheet from the USDA offers a description of the steps you need to take to resolve heirs property issues in detail.

How do I know what loans to apply for or how to access them?

The Farm Service Administration earmarks a certain percentage funding assistance to “historically underserved farmers and ranchers,” which Congress defined to include:

  • Women
  • African-Americans
  • Alaskan Natives
  • American Indians
  • “Hispanic”
  • Asian
  • Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

You can find out more information about the types of loans available, determine your eligibility, or access loan application forms here.

What do I do if I think the USDA discriminates against me?

You can file a civil rights complaint against the USDA by completing the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, found online at http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, or at any USDA office, or call (866) 632-9992 to request the form. You may also write a letter containing all of the information requested in the form. Send your completed complaint form or letter to us by mail at U.S. Department of Agriculture, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9419, by fax at (202) 690-7442, or email at program.intake@usda.gov.

You can find out more information about the complaints process here.

Remember to ALWAYS save a copy of everything you submit to USDA for your own records.

How do I respond to Executive Order 13985?

In response to Executive Order 13985,  Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is requesting input from the public on how it can advance racial justice and equity for underserved communities. From now until August 13, the public can provide their thoughts and opinions on how USDA can make it easier for people of color to access information and resources on federal farm programs—this includes everything from how to apply for government benefits and assistance, how to interact with USDA employees, and sharing your experiences with racial discrimination at the hands of the agency. The goal is to provide ideas and guidance that will be used by UDA’s prospective Racial Equity Commission to identify and remove barriers that underserved communities and individuals may face when attempting to access federal programs. 

Your input is critical in ensuring the efficacy of the Equity Commissions pending reforms. Please take a moment to tell USDA what it can do to better serve you. You can make your voice heard by visiting https://www.regulations.gov/commenton/USDA-2021-0006-0001 and entering a comment. For more information about the initiative and to see a list of questions and specific input USDA is seeking, please read the description on the Federal Register.

Please be aware that any information you provide will be made public, so please avoid sharing any personal data you wish to keep private.

Here is a helpful video from Regulations.gov on how the public can participate in federal rulemaking with a modernized user interface, improved search engine, and a standardized comment form.

Where can I find out more information about recent legislation affecting Black farmers?

Fair Access for Farmers and Ranchers Act (part of 2018 Farm Bill)

Text of the bill

Section 5104: Authorizes Farm Service Agency (FSA) to loan funds to qualified intermediaries (co-ops, credit unions, and non-profit organizations) to re-lend to individuals and entities seeking to resolve heirs property issues and obtain clear title to farmland appropriation of up to $10 million annually.

Section 12615: Eligibility for Operators on Heirs Property Land to Obtain A Farm Number -Includes important changes to allow historically underserved farmers to access USDA farm programs, even if they are operating on “heirs property” and cannot prove ownership of their farm.

Section 12615:

ELIGIBLE DOCUMENTATION

If you are in a state with the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (including Texas):

  • A court order verifying that the land meets the definition of heirs property
  • Certification from recorder of deeds that landowner is deceased and one heir has initiated a court proceeding

If you are NOT in a state with the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act:

  • Tenancy-in-common Agreement approved by a majority of owners
  • Tax returns of the farm operator for the 5 preceding years
  • Self Certification of control of the land
  • Any other documentation identified by state law.

Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act

Text of the bill

The USDA homepage for the debt relief program is available here.

The program is currently on hold pending a federal lawsuit. However, you can visit the website to learn more about how to participate and what steps to take to determine whether you qualify.

Eligible borrowers include those who are one or more of the following: Black/African American, American Indian, Alaskan native, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, or Pacific Islanders.

Eligible loans: 

  • Made directly by FSA, including Farm Storage Facility Loans, Direct Farm Ownership Loans, Farm Operating Loans, including Microloans and Youth Loans, Emergency Loans, Conservation Loans, and Soil and Water Loans; and
  • Guaranteed by FSA and made by an approved lender, including Farm Ownership Loans, Farm Operating Loans, and Conservation Loans.

Justice for Black Farmers Act

Text of the Senate bill

Text of the House bill

Track the bill at Govtrack

Criticism of the bill: Chris Newman, The Justice for Black Farmers Act: A Critical BIPOC Review, Medium (Dec. 5, 2020).

Comprehensive Summary of Justice for Black Farmers Act

Comprehensive Summary of Justice for Black Farmers Act

If you are a Black Farmer and want to comment and leave your feedback on  Executive Order 13985, click here!

How to respond to Executive Order 13985: Your Voice Matters!

In response to Executive Order 13985,  Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is requesting input from the public on how it can advance racial justice and equity for underserved communities. From now until August 13, the public can provide their thoughts and opinions on how USDA can make it easier for people of color to access information and resources on federal farm programs—this includes everything from how to apply for government benefits and assistance, how to interact with USDA employees, and sharing your experiences with racial discrimination at the hands of the agency. The goal is to provide ideas and guidance that will be used by UDA’s prospective Racial Equity Commission to identify and remove barriers that underserved communities and individuals may face when attempting to access federal programs. 

Your input is critical in ensuring the efficacy of the Equity Commissions pending reforms. Please take a moment to tell USDA what it can do to better serve you. You can make your voice heard by visiting https://www.regulations.gov/commenton/USDA-2021-0006-0001 and entering a comment. For more information about the initiative and to see a list of questions and specific input USDA is seeking, please read the description on the Federal Register.

Please be aware that any information you provide will be made public, so please avoid sharing any personal data you wish to keep private.

Listen to our legal researcher, Erika McDonald, explain Executive Order 13985

This is a helpful video from regulations.gov on how the public can participate in federal rulemaking with a modernized user interface, improved search engine, and standardized comment form.

How do I know when I need legal help and where can I get it?

Unless your name is on a deed that is recorded with your county’s tax assessor and there are no liens, mortgages, or ANY other encumbrances (see glossary) then you might need legal assistance. There are a number of non-profit organizations in Texas that provide free legal services.

The best organization to contact depends on where you live and sometimes the nature of your issues.

Below is a list of organizations you can contact to try to get a pro bono or volunteer lawyer in different areas of Texas. However, the list is not comprehensive. You may find the nearest Pro Bono Lawyer or Legal Aid Clinic by searching in one of the following directories: Legal Help Finder, Texas Law Help, and Legal Services Corporation. It is recommended that you search by area and legal issue to find the best assistance for your specific needs.

Legal Aid & Pro Bono Legal Services in Texas:

Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas

Dallas, TX · (214) 748-1234

Fort Worth, TX · (817) 336-3943

Application found here 

Lone Star Legal Aid

Houston, TX · (713) 652-0077

Galveston, TX · (409) 763-0381

Conroe, TX · (936) 539-2130

Bryan, TX · (979) 775-5050

Tyler, TX · (903) 595-4781

Waco, TX · In National Lloyds Building · (254) 756-7944

Belton, TX · (254) 939-5773

Bellville, TX · (979) 865-9133

Richmond, TX · (832) 913-7200

Application found here

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid

Austin, TX · (512) 374-2700

San Antonio, TX · (210) 212-3700

Victoria, TX · (361) 226-5542

Hallettsville, TX · (361) 450-6731

Application found here 

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid Pro Bono Contacts

  Name                                     Title                                                                                                          Location              Email

Tracy Figueroa Director of Pro Bono and Private Attorney Involvement Corpus Christi tfigueroa@trla.org
Pablo Almaguer Pro Bono Counsel Edinburg palmaguer@trla.org
Tracey Whitley PAI Coordinator Austin twhitley@trla.org
Danielle Gonzalez PAI Team Manager and Family Law Attorney Austin dgonzalez@trla.org
Maria Martinez Pro Bono Coordinator Corpus Christi mmartinez@trla.org
Martha Hernandez Legal Clinic Coordinator Edinburg mhernandez@trla.org
Graciela Martinez Pro Bono Coordinator El Paso gmartinez@trla.org
Alberto Sandoval Legal Clinic Coordinator Laredo asandoval@trla.org
Estefana Galindo Pro Bono Coordinator San Antonio egalindo@trla.org
Debbie Ramirez Pro Bono Coordinator Victoria debbieramirez@trla.org
Tricia Moore Domestic Violence Project Assistant Director Austin tmoore@trla.org
April Kubik Volunteer Coordinator/DV Contract Manager Austin akubik@trla.org
Anna Briseño Paralegal II Austin abriseno@trla.org
Nayla Paredes Pro Bono Coordinator Brownsville nparedes@trla.org
Alexandra Mora Pro Bono Coordinator Brownsville alemora@trla.org

Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas

512-476-5550

Application found here 

Houston Volunteer Lawyers

1111 Bagby Street, FLB 300, Houston, TX 77002

713-228-0735

Application found here