Back in March of this year, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was passed by Congress and signed into law. It allocated nearly $2 trillion in funding for individuals, businesses and other organizations across the United States. Anyone who got a stimulus check from the IRS early this year has the American Rescue Plan to thank for it.
The plan contains several provisions designed to support farmers, ranchers, forest owners and rural communities. Specifically, these provisions will:
- Help fund the agricultural sector
- Begin addressing historic disadvantages for minority producers
- Support domestic nutrition assistance programs
- Take steps to restore rural America
Funding The Agricultural Sector
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will receive billions in new funding from the act, an eye-catching amount that’s intended to develop and support a variety of programs. Special focus has been placed on strengthening our domestic food supply chain.
The USDA will increase the amount of food available for distribution to those in need through food banks, nonprofits and restaurants. To maximize the support felt by these efforts, food will be purchased from U.S. producers.
The legislation also focuses on structural improvements. Significant investments are to be made in the infrastructure for food processors, farmers markets, food banks, local food systems and the producers themselves.
Socially Disadvantaged Producers
Socially disadvantaged producers are eligible for USDA payments up to 120% of loan balances for Farm Service Agency (FSA) Direct and Guaranteed Farm Loans, as well as Farm Storage Facility Loans (FSFL). Section 2501 of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation and Trade Act of 1990 defines socially disadvantaged producers as being one or more of the following: Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic, Asian and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.
In addition to debt relief, the USDA is required to establish a racial equity commission to address longstanding discrimination and inequity. Investments will be made in:
- Land access
- Assistance overcoming access barriers to USDA programs
- Business development
For more information on debt relief, you can visit the USDA’s page on American Rescue Plan debt payments.
Restoring Rural America
Finally, the American Rescue Plan Act acknowledges the harsh economic and social realities that rural America has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. To support healthcare systems and combat food insecurity, rural hospitals and local communities have been allocated funding to help with COVID-19 vaccinations and food assistance.
Rural housing issues are also addressed in the act. Rental assistance for low-income and elderly borrowers has been established and is slated to continue through September 2022. Additionally, homeowners will have the opportunity to refinance direct loans under the Single-Family Housing Loan Program and Single-Family Housing Repair Loans & Grants.
To learn more about the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and how it can help agricultural producers, check out the USDA American Rescue Plan Fact Sheet. We’re also happy to answer any questions around new opportunities for refinancing and loan repayment that this legislation has created. Just visit us at agri-access.com and connect with us today!