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The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and its Impact on Native American Producers

 

August 15, 2022



The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and its Impact

on Native American Producers

The Native American Agriculture Fund expresses support for the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which includes provisions that could serve Native American producers. If signed into law, the IRA would include:

• $3.1 billion to distressed borrowers who hold direct or guaranteed farm loans

• $2.2 billion for farmers who experienced discrimination in USDA loan programs

• $125 million to provide outreach and technical assistance on areas such as agricultural credit

• $250 million to support agricultural research, education, and extension

• $250 million to provide grants and loans to eligible entities to improve land access

• $20 billion for climate-smart agricultural programs administered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), including programs such as Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQUIP; $8.45 billion) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP; $3.25 billion)

“Many producers, and in particular Native Americans, are facing unprecedented times. The perfect storm of issues such as climate, inflation, supply chain, COVID-19, farmland values, and poor market prices in certain areas could lead us into another Farm Financial Crisis. Many of the issues felt in the 1980s have been exacerbated with additional challenges facing today's farmers. The IRA, although not perfect, could be a lifeline for many producers that will not make it without help now. Naysayers of the IRA are not looking at the immediate need of producers," said Toni Stanger-McLaughlin, CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund.

"There are two main areas those naysayers are focusing on: The lack of debt forgiveness and not enough in Climate. I disagree with those comments and challenge those opposed to look at the current language in the IRA and the former language in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Although blanket debt forgiveness for minorities was removed, the amount of funding that will go toward disadvantaged or producers that have experienced discrimination in the past is almost identical and more in other sections. In many ways, the IRA is more creative in its proposal to serve all producers through authorities that have been in existence at the Farm Service Agency (FSA) but previously lacked funding to make them effective. Now FSA can use those tools to assist producers and help keep them on their farms. $125 million in outreach and technical assistance will also provide a much-needed lifeline to producers and those that advocate for farmers and ranchers, such as Tribal and State governments, educational institutions, and non-profits. As far as the IRA being too weak on climate, more than $20 billion in agriculture alone will go toward recognizing and improving climate-smart agricultural practices.

The IRA legislation is just a beginning, and Tribes and Native producers must have a say in how the funding is distributed, as well as how the rules and regulations surrounding eligibility requirements are administered. This is an opportunity for Native producers to receive support from the FSA through credit servicing and technical assistance programs. The USDA is asking for input instead of dictating how a program will be administered. For many long-time farm advocates, this is the first time USDA is making a significant effort to hear from those affected about how a program should be administered. This is a step in the right direction. It will allow a holistic approach to addressing discrimination against Native farmers and ranchers, as well as protections preventing another era of a farm financial crisis. Bottom line, something is better than nothing, and when that something starts with a B, as in billions, that’s significant!”

About the Native American Agriculture Fund:

The Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) provides grants to eligible organizations for business assistance, agricultural education, technical support, and advocacy services to support Native farmers and ranchers. The charitable trust was created by the settlement of the landmark Keepseagle v. Vilsack class-action lawsuit. NAAF is the largest philanthropic organization devoted solely to serving the Native American farming and ranching community.

 

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