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Update on USDA’s Heirs’ Property Relending Program

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

Image is row crops with an outbuilding in the background
Image by Edwin Remsberg

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As I wrote in a blog post a little over a year ago, in August 2021, the USDA announced tens of millions of dollars to help people resolve heirs’ property ownership and succession issues. The authority for that Heirs Property Relending Program (HPRP) comes from Section 5104 of the 2018 Farm Bill, in which Congress empowered the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to give money to qualified intermediary lenders to relend to help folks resolve issues related to heirs’ property. And now, a little over one year later, the USDA has announced the first three lenders to be approved for the HPRP.

Heirs’ property refers to land that has been passed down without a will or a deed, which makes it extremely difficult to determine ownership of the land or to manage the land because each descendant owns the entirety of the land. And for farm families, proof of ownership is often the key to obtaining financing or access to USDA programs and services. The HPRP is meant to provide money to assist people who are faced with an heirs’ property issue find a way to resolve it and also to prevent it from happening again in the future.

Through the HPRP, approved lenders can make loans to heirs who:

  • Are individuals or legal entities with authority to incur the debt and to resolve ownership and succession of a farm owned by multiple owners;

  • Are a family member or heir-at-law related by blood or marriage to the previous owner of the property;

  • Agree to complete a succession plan.

These are loans. They are not grants. They will need to be paid back at interest rates set by the lenders.

The loans cannot be used for any land improvement, development purpose, acquisition or repair of buildings, acquisition of personal property, payment of operating costs, payment of finders’ fees, or similar costs.

The three lenders approved so far are Akiptan, Inc., the Cherokee Nation Economic Development Trust Authority (CNEDTA) and the Shared Capital Cooperative. Akiptan, Inc. is targeting Indian Country throughout the U.S. The CNEDTA is targeting rural agricultural land located in the 14 counties encompassing the Cherokee Nation Reservation. The Shared Capital Cooperative, in partnership with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, is targeting producers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. You can find more information in the USDA’s announcement about the lenders and also their respective service areas.

USDA is encouraging more lenders, including cooperatives, credit unions and nonprofit organizations to apply to become an approved lender. There is more than $100 million of HPRP funding available. If applications exceed the funds available, however, then lenders with ten or more years of experience working with socially disadvantaged farmers and which are located in states that have adopted a statute modeled on the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act, which Maryland has done, will be given priority. See the USDA’s announcement for details.

To learn more about Maryland’s new Partition of Property Act, join us in Annapolis on October 28th at ALEI’s annual Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference. The primary sponsor of the enacted Senate bill in the General Assembly, Senator Malcolm Augustine, will be joined by Attorney Shakisha Morgan of The Morgan Firm to discuss the new law. You can register for the conference here.

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