For decades, farmers in the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and other underserved communities have been disproportionately affected by unfairly limited access to the credit needed to operate their farm or ranch businesses. In part, this stems from previous well-documented discriminatory practices by both private lending institutions and USDA. For instances, in order to obtain a loan, some BIPOC producers were required to pledge excessive amounts of land as collateral, accept unfavorable loan terms such as high interest rates, and wait long periods of time before receiving money from their lender. This is the third in a series of periodic highlights of new and existing NALC resources that are especially relevant for these communities. Relevant current events and blog posts are available here. This post will focus on access to credit.
Additionally, BIPOC producers also face other challenges that hinder their ability to obtain agricultural credit. For example, BIPOC producers are more likely to operate smaller farms, which means they may not be eligible for as much credit. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, BIPOC producers receive lower farm revenues, and lenders perceive this as a financial risk for loan repayment. Further, some BIPOC producers do not have clear title to their land due to heirs property issues, making them ineligible for certain agricultural loans.
Without the financing needed to successfully run a farming operation, many BIPOC producers have been forced into foreclosure. This has led to land loss and a declining number of BIPOC producers in the agricultural industry. From 1920 to 1997, African American farmers lost 90% of their property and as of 2017, BIPOC communities only make up 4.5% of producers in the U.S.
Private agricultural lending institutions and governmental agencies are required to conduct outreach to BIPOC producers to inform them of financing opportunities, but lenders are not subject to specific lending goals to producers in BIPOC communities. While most agricultural credit is obtained through commercial banks and the Farm Credit System, USDA does target a portion of their loan funds to BIPOC and underserved producers.
Any person who believes they have experienced discrimination when obtaining or participating in USDA services or programs, such as the agency’s farm loan program can file a discrimination complaint. Instructions on how to file a complaint and the complaint form can be found here and here.
Some resources available to learn more about obtaining credit and the options available for underserved communities are:
- Minority and Women Farmers and Ranchers (Farm Service Agency)
- Loans for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers (Farm Service Agency)
- Native American Tribal Loans (Farm Service Agency)
- Topics: Farm Sector Income & Finances (Economic Research Service)
- Topics: Socially Disadvantaged, Beginning, Limited Resource, and Female Farmers and Ranchers(Economic Research Service)
- Topics: Credit (Economic Research Service)
The NALC and our partners have a variety of resources related to finance and credit issues. For example, the Ag Law in the Field podcast hosted by NALC partner Tiffany Dowell Lashmet with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service has released several episodes on agricultural law topics related to the availability of credit. These include:
- Hot Topics in Ag Finance Law Podcast (Ag Law in the Field, Tiffany Dowell, featuring Jeff Peterson (NALC Partner, 2021))
- Dealing with Distressed Agricultural Loans Podcast (Ag Law in the Field, Tiffany Dowell, featuring Michael Fielding (NALC Partner, 2020))
Along with our partners, NALC has also published several resources on finance and credit topics:
Publication: Lending for Livestock, Credit for Crops (Brown, 2021)
Agricultural Law Weekly Review: USDA Grants $75 Million to Twenty Organizations to Aid Underserved Farming Communities (Center for Agricultural and Shale Law (NALC Partner, 2021))
Publication: Financing the Farm: A Law Bulletin Series on Legal Arrangements for Farm Financing (Hall & Bachelor, Ohio State University Extension (NALC Partner, 2019))
Additionally, NALC attorneys have spoken to audiences across the country on finance and credit issues and heirs property issues. If you’re interested in having a speaker at an upcoming event, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.