USDA Expands Farm Loans for Native Americans
Agriculture Under Secretary Michael T. Scuse today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved and obligated the first loan under the Highly Fractionated Indian Land Loan program (HFIL). The program, made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill, provides revolving loan funds to qualified intermediary lenders, allowing qualified tribes and individuals the ability to purchase tribal farmland that has multiple owners. Scuse made the announcement during the Intertribal Agriculture Council Membership meeting in Las Vegas, NV.
“This program was created to address a longstanding barrier to agricultural financing in Indian Country,” said Scuse. “Working with intermediary lenders, the program allows USDA to help increase the availability of farm loans to Native Americans who want to start or expand a farming or ranching operation on Indian lands.”
The first recipient, the Native American Community Development Corporation Financial Services, Inc. (NACDCFS) of Browning, Mont., will lend funds directly to tribal members through a $10 million intermediary HFIL loan from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). NACDCFS addresses critical needs in Native American communities related to the growth of family assets, supports economic development, and enhances the quality of life for communities and residents located on or near Montana’s seven Indian reservations. NACDCFS provides one-on-one technical assistance to Native American entrepreneurs and agricultural producers. NACDCFS is a 501(c) (3), certified Native Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), through the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Under the 1887 Dawes Act, Indian reservation land was divided and allotted to individual tribal members such that with the passing of each generation, title ownership was divided and parceled among heirs, while the land was not. As a result, land once owned by a single person could today be owned by hundreds or thousands of individuals, resulting in what is known as “highly fractionated Indian land.” In many instances, landowners are unknown or cannot be located, which complicates the coordination of ownership or prevents the use of the property altogether. There are more than 245,000 owners of three million fractionated land interests, spanning approximately 150 Indian reservations.
Under HFIL, tribes and tribal members can submit an application directly to an intermediary lender. To participate, intermediary lenders first must be approved by USDA. The lenders may be private and tribal nonprofit corporations, public agencies, Indian tribes or lenders subject to federal or state regulation (such as a credit union or other financial institution). FSA will lend to the intermediary, which will relend to the applicant. The intermediary lender also will administer the loan for the applicant.
Over the past eight years, USDA has taken big, bold steps to forge a new era for civil rights and ensure all Americans who come to USDA for help are treated fairly, with dignity and respect. Through coordinated outreach and consistent engagement, USDA is forming new partnerships in diverse communities and regaining trust where it was once lost. Learn more about our progress during the Obama Administration to increase access to opportunity for all Americans, and to create a more equal and inclusive USDA in Chapter 9 of our yearlong results project: The People’s Department: A New Era for Civil Rights at USDA.