US farmers receive more than $2 billion in loan relief from farm agency

By Thomson Reuters Feb 29, 2024 | 9:12 AM

By Leah Douglas

(Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has distributed over $2.1 billion to more than 39,000 farmers in economic distress through a loan relief program funded by the Inflation Reduction Act, the agency said.

The relief comes as the government forecasts a sharp fall in U.S. farm income this year with many commodity crop prices hitting multi year lows.

The IRA, passed in August 2022, allocated $3.1 billion to the relief program, which enables USDA to make loan adjustments or payments for farmers at financial risk who hold direct and guaranteed loans through the agency.

USDA loans can help farmers pay for land, equipment, feed, and other expenses.

The agency has also received nearly 60,000 applications for assistance under another IRA-funded program for farmers who experienced discrimination in USDA farm lending practices, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on Wednesday.

The USDA is hoping to distribute the discrimination funds this summer, Vilsack said. The agency is working with third-party administrators to evaluate the applications.

For decades, farmers of color and women have alleged that they are treated unfairly in USDA’s loan programs.

“This goes back over decades. The financial assistance is long overdue,” said Senator Raphael Warnock at the hearing, who advocated for the IRA program.

A 2022 study found that USDA loan discrimination contributed to Black farmers losing roughly $326 billion worth of land in the 20th century.

The IRA included $2.2 billion for the discrimination payment program.

(Reporting by Leah Douglas; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)