In this Ask the Expert, Monica Rainge answers questions about financial assistance for producers who experienced farm loan discrimination. Monica is a Senior Advisor at USDA.
Raised in rural southwest Georgia, Monica’s passion for agriculture started by participating in 4-H. She has a juris doctor and Master of Laws degree in agricultural law from the University of Florida and the University of Arkansas, respectively, and has been an agricultural lawyer and mediator for 25 years.
Working at USDA and helping to lead important equity work is a full circle moment for Monica. While completing a public interest legal fellowship at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund in Albany, Georgia, she organized black farmers to travel to Washington, D.C., to protest USDA’s discrimination and injustice against black farmers. These protests inspired class action lawsuits where USDA acknowledged that it had indeed discriminated against farmers of color and women. Monica is honored to serve on the team within USDA helping to implement the Discrimination Financial Assistance Program (DFAP).
How is USDA helping farm loan borrowers who faced discrimination?
One way that USDA is helping these borrowers is through DFAP, which was created by Section 22007 of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). This program will provide financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners who experienced discrimination in USDA’s farm lending prior to January 1, 2021.
Since the passage of the IRA, USDA has worked diligently to design DFAP in accordance with the law and with significant stakeholder input. USDA is committed to providing financial assistance to those who faced discrimination in USDA farm lending as swiftly and efficiently as possible.
By taking important steps to fulfill the mandates in Section 22007, USDA hopes to recognize and acknowledge the discrimination suffered by individuals, take steps to rebuild trust with communities, and create a better and stronger U.S. agriculture industry that is more diverse and resilient.
This is one piece of a much broader effort at USDA to improve equity and access and eliminate barriers to its programs for underserved individuals and communities. More information about this work can be accessed at usda.gov/equity.
For discrimination occurring after January 1, 2021, you may contact the Office of Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Information Research Service at (866) 632-9992, which is toll free or by emailing CR-INFO@usda.gov.
Who is eligible for assistance?
DFAP is for individuals who experienced discrimination prior to January 1, 2021 by USDA farm loan programs, which are currently administered by the Farm Service Agency (or its predecessor the Farmers Home Administration).
Individuals may also be eligible if they currently have assigned or assumed USDA farm loan debt that was the subject of USDA discrimination that occurred prior to January 1, 2021. For example, if they inherited the debt that was the subject of USDA farm loan program discrimination.
How do I apply?
There are three ways you can submit an application: online, in-person, or by mail. Visit 22007apply.gov for detailed information about application procedures and available assistance.
Further information and assistance can be obtained by calling the National Call Center at 1-800-721-0970 or emailing email@example.com. Additionally, regional offices have been set up around the country so that individuals can visit, get help, and apply in-person. To find a regional office near you please visit 22007apply.gov.
Is there an application fee?
Applying for this program is free—and free help with the application is available.
Where can I receive assistance with my application, if needed?
If you need help completing this application, or have any questions, please call the toll-free helpline at 1-800-721-0970 for assistance in English and Spanish.
You can also visit 22007apply.gov for a list of walk-in locations that can help you complete the application.
If you use sign language to communicate, you can use the 711 relay service to call. If you have a disability and need another accommodation, please call 1-800-721-0970 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do I need to retain an attorney to apply?
You are not required to have an attorney assist you in completing this application. However, if you choose to use an attorney you will be responsible for paying any attorneys’ fees.
The law that created this financial assistance program – IRA Section 22007 – does not provide for attorneys’ fees, and no attorneys’ fees will be paid to you or your counsel by USDA or any other federal agency or department of the United States.
The total amount of financial assistance will not be increased to cover any attorneys’ fees or costs. USDA and the program administrators will not encourage or discourage you to retain counsel or retain a specific attorney or law firm. However, if you have legal questions, you are advised to consult with licensed attorneys.
When is the deadline to apply?
The deadline to apply for assistance is January 13, 2024.
Where can I find more information?
Visit 22007apply.gov or call 1-800-721-0970 for more information and to learn about free resources, local program office locations, and upcoming in-person and virtual technical assistance sessions.