USDA secretary Tom Vilsack

USDA investing $67 million to help heirs resolve land ownership and succession issues

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing $67 million in competitive loans through the new Heirs’ Property Relending Program (HPRP), which aims to help agricultural producers and landowners resolve heirs’ land ownership and succession issues. Intermediary lenders — cooperatives, credit unions, and nonprofit organizations — can apply for loans up to $5 million at 1% interest once the Farm Service Agency (FSA) opens the two-month signup window in late August. 

After FSA selects lenders, heirs can apply directly to those lenders for loans and assistance. Heirs’ property issues have long been a barrier for many producers and landowners to access USDA programs and services, and this relending program provides access to capital to help producers find a resolution to these issues. 

“While those affected are in all geographic and cultural areas, many black farmers and other groups who have experienced historic discrimination have inherited heirs’ property,” Vilsack said. “USDA is committed to revising policies to be more equitable and examining barriers faced by heirs’ property owners is part of that effort. This helps ensure that we protect the legacy of these family farms for generations to come.” 

The Heirs’ Property Relending Program is another example of how USDA is working to rebuild trust with America’s farmers and ranchers.  HPRP is a loan and will need to be repaid as directed by the 2018 Farm Bill. 

The program’s benefits go far beyond its participants. It will also keep farmland in farming, protect family farm legacies and support economic viability. To be eligible, intermediary lenders must be certified as a community development financial institution and have experience and capability in making and servicing agricultural and commercial loans that are similar in nature.

If applications exceed the amount of available funds, those applicants with at least 10 years or more of experience with socially disadvantaged farmers that are located in states that have adopted a statute consisting of enactment or adoption of the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA) will receive first preference. A list of these states is available at farmers.gov/heirs/relending. A secondary preference tier is established for those that have applications from ultimate recipients already in process, or that have a history of successfully relending previous HPRP funds.  When multiple applicants are in the same tier, or there are no applicants in tier 1 or 2, applications will be funded in order of the date the application was received.

Selected intermediary lenders will determine the rates, terms, and payment structure for loans to heirs. Interest rates will be the lowest rate sufficient for intermediaries to cover cost of operating and sustaining the loan. 

Additional information for lenders, including how to apply for funding, can be found in the HPRP final rule (PDF, 387 KB). A webinar will be held Tuesday, August 3, 2021 regarding applying for funding. Interested re-lenders should register through the FSA Outreach and Education webpage.

Relending to Heirs 

Heirs may use the loans to resolve title issues by financing the purchase or consolidation of property interests and financing costs associated with a succession plan. This may also include costs and fees associated with buying out fractional interests of other heirs in jointly-owned property to clear the title, as well as closing costs, appraisals, title searches, surveys, preparing documents, mediation, and legal services.   

Heirs may not use loans 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. 

Intermediary lenders will 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.  

More information on how heirs can borrow from lenders under HPRP will be available in the coming months.

Heirs’ property is a legal term that refers to family land inherited without a will or legal documentation of ownership. It has historically been challenging for heirs to benefit from USDA programs because of the belief that they cannot get a farm number without proof of ownership or control of land. However, FSA provides alternative options that allow an heir to obtain a farm number. In states that have adopted the UPHPA, producers may provide specific documents to receive a farm number. To learn more about heirs property, HPRP, or UPHPA, visit farmers.gov/heirs/relending.

2 comments

  1. There are firms that specialize in heirs establishing their claim to property. Heir Hunters International of Los Angeles, CA, is perhaps one of the best-known firms. Should one need help in establishing their ownership history, reach out to HHI or another firm to aid you.

  2. Our family farm has been in our family for 6 generations. My sister and her husband passed away with a mortgage on a parcel of the land. They left it to their 2 grandchildren age 9 and 30. No one knew it went to tax sale or that it was in the 2 grandchildrens name among other family names until we received notice to redeem the property at county collector office. My husband and I went to courthouse and paid back taxes to keep family land but now a niece that lives on said land says their was someone walking around property and when she inquired to find out what was going on, she was told it was in preforeclosure. Help this whole thing has been a mess. The mortgage company put a mortgage on land that was not suppose to be mortgaged because it was still in my deceased dads name. Belonging to my siblings and myself. But mortgage company is trying to screw us out of the land because they screwed up mortgaging land that wan’t able to be mortgaged. My deceased sister only had the house and under 3 acres in her name. Mortgage company have threatned us with Fraud charges, Foreclosure and gave us a time frame to clean my families belongings out of house. This has been going on since 2017 and my sister passed july 4th 2019. This mortgage company is know to be underhanded and target the elderly. We have contacted the BBB and have read all kinds of horror stories of people getting scam out of their land. Who gives a 30 year mortgage to 2 people on S.S. In their 70’s With bad credit and had been making payments to the IRS for years because of fradulent taxes because they both had gambling problems??? The house was free and clear as all the land was at the time my father passed. He wanted my sister and brother-in-law to have the house and 2 plus acres it set on so they would always have house over their head. He left the other land in a trust which was in mine and my siblings name so that it could not be morgaged! My brother-in-law passed away in 2016 and had received a loan on the house and 2 plus acres for $134,000 the house needed a lot of repairs on the it that my dad and me and my siblings all helped build. The house was built in 1970 and was in good condition at the time of his death. We now know that not one penny was spent on repairs of the house and was gambled away and his bar tab was a weekly $600.00 at the local bar. Help us save our family home. My children and grandchildren are wanting to farm that land and my niece uses the well on the family property. She had an acre deeded off to her and has a modular home there that was deeded off before my mother passed in 2003. And they are trying to take it also. Please help!! Thank you for your time

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