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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it will begin implementation of the Heirs’ Property Relending Program, an initiative spearheaded by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., in the 2018 Farm Bill.

“For so long, too many farmers have been locked out of USDA programs through no fault of their own,” said Scott. “I am glad the department is implementing our commonsense solution, which will open the door to landowners having more options and access to programs. This will be a game changer for heirs’ property owners in South Carolina and across the country.”

What is heirs’ property?

Heirs’ property is land that has been passed down through generations of the same family, often without any formal change of title.

Over a third of Black-owned land in the South was passed down informally, rather than through deeds and wills.

Without a clear title, heirs’ property owners are limited in what they can do with their land.

Prior to the 2018 Farm Bill, heirs’ property owners were not eligible for programs administered by the Department of Agriculture, including the loans and conservation funding that keep many rural landowners afloat.

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Additional background

In the 115th Congress, Scott worked with then-Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama to introduce the Fair Access for Farmers and Ranchers Act, a bill aimed at remedying heirs’ property issues and assisting heirs’ property owners with gaining access to USDA programs.

The bill included the authorization of a pilot lending program administered through the Farm Service Agency to make loans available to qualified intermediaries who work to resolve issues of heirs’ property ownership on farmland that has multiple owners.

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After getting the Fair Access for Farmers and Ranchers Act included in the 2018 Farm Bill, Scott and Jones introduced an amendment to the FY 2020 appropriations bill for the Department of Agriculture that appropriated funds for the implementation of the loan program.

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