Senators Tim Scott and Doug Jones Urge USDA to Immediately Implement Heirs’ Property Provisions Secured in 2018 Farm Bill

WASHINGTON – In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Doug Jones (D-AL) are urging the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to immediately implement provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill that would benefit owners of heirs’ property. Heirs’ property is land that has been informally passed down within families, often for several generations, and can often lead to legal complications and prevent landowners from qualifying for federal assistance.

The letter focuses on a provision that would allow heirs’ property owners to obtain USDA farm numbers and gain fair access to the department’s programs, removing a significant barrier to federal resources that African-American farmers and ranchers have long faced. Senators Scott and Jones introduced that legislation, the Fair Access for Farmers and Ranchers Act (S.3117), last year and were successful in their efforts to include it in the recent farm bill. 

“Heirs’ property overwhelmingly impacts African-American land ownership, of which 60 percent is projected to be heirs’ property. Because a significant portion of U.S. minority-owned rural land was passed down through generations as heirs property, often without a legal title, these farmers and ranchers have been unable to obtain farm numbers and subsequent access to a multitude of USDA programs,” the senators wrote.

“The inability to participate in USDA programs has not only contributed to a startling negative trend in African-American land ownership but has also hindered African-American farmers and ranchers from experiencing economic equality,” the letter continues. “As representatives of states that are largely considered to be ground zero for this issue, timely and efficient implementation is paramount for heirs’ property owners.”

The letter also calls for USDA to follow through with a farm bill-mandated study about the impact of unresolved legal issues have on the ability of heirs’ property owners to operate their farms and ranches.

Full text of the letter can be found HERE.