By Osborne & Francis
October 25, 2023

Frequently Asked Questions About Compensation from the Inflation Reduction Act for Farmer Discrimination

New legislation has acknowledged that systemic discrimination against minority farmers and agricultural workers during the FSA loans process has resulted in significant monetary and emotional losses that should be compensated. As the USDA prepares to distribute financial compensation for farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who have experienced discrimination during the loans process, eligible parties should consider hiring a qualified personal injury attorney to ensure they receive the compensation they deserve. 

The personal injury lawyers of Osborne & Francis are on the frontlines of this issue, and have been fighting for justice for disenfranchised farmers for over a decade. In a free consultation, one of our civil rights attorneys can provide additional details for any of the questions addressed here and questions that pertain to your specific case. You can reach us at (561) 678-0156 or contact our offices in Boca Raton or Orlando. We look forward to helping you navigate your farmer discrimination lawsuit to maximize your compensation.

What is the Inflation Reduction Act and what does it do for disenfranchised farmers?

The Inflation Reduction Act is a bipartisan effort to alleviate the financial burdens brought on in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The IRA reduced the deficit, cut prescription drug prices, and supported action on clean energy. Our focus has been on the funding allocated for farmers who have faced discrimination while trying to secure an FSA loan. This provision is a way for Congress to hold the USDA accountable for decades of discriminatory lending practices towards minority farmers. Since it was passed into law in 2022, the USDA has been working to create a system to distribute the Discrimination Financial Assistance. The funding must be used September 31st, 2031.

How have farmers been impacted by the discrimination they faced during the loans process?

Farmers have had to reduce the size of their farms, take out additional private loans, or reckon with losing their property and operations altogether. In effect, numerous family legacies have been erased as a result of discriminatory treatment by loan officers. Additionally, their financial futures were compromised, preventing them from taking measures like paying off medical debt, sending their kids to college, and investing in their retirement.

One of the hardest hit groups in this regard has been Black farmers, who have lost the equivalent of 326 billions dollars worth of land over the course of about 80 years. The repeated disenfranchisement of Black farmers has previously been acknowledged by the USDA in Pigford v. Glickman.

What counts a discrimination in the Inflation Reduction Act?

The USDA has yet to provide a specific list of what qualifies as discrimination and Congress did not prescribe a list in the IRA, but we believe that the USDA will rely on the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to determine what actions constitute discrimination in the context of the loans process. This includes actions like unfairly:

  • Rejecting a loan applicant
  • Delaying a loan 
  • Adding harsh terms to the loan
  • Offering an inadequate loan 
  • Demanding excessive collateral
  • Insisting on an unnecessary level of supervision

What is the maximum amount I can recover in Discrimination Financial Assistance?

Currently, compensation is capped at $500,000 per claim. The total amount set aside is 2.2 billion dollars, although more funding may be made available at a later date. Obviously, the amount of compensation recovered by individual plaintiffs will be based on the severity of the discrimination they experienced and the extent to which the plaintiff sustained damages as a result of the discrimination they faced.

What happens if the money set aside for Discrimination Financial Assistance runs out?

There is a possibility that the funding set aside for the Discrimination Financial Assistance will be insufficient to reimburse plaintiffs for the value of their damages. In that case, there are two likely scenarios.

Congress may decide to provide additional funding for Discrimination Financial Assistance. Alternatively, the USDA may need to implement a pro rata share arrangement. Let’s say that the 2.2 billion dollars set aside for Discrimination Financial Assistance only covers half of the total value of what the plaintiffs are owed. In that case, the USDA could say that they will pay half of the value of each individual claim.

Who qualifies for compensation under the IRA?

We are still waiting on clarification, but generally speaking we believe that farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who have experienced discrimination on the basis of one of the USDA’s protected identities will be eligible for compensation under the IRA.

This includes characteristics like race, religion, disability, and gender. We anticipate that this will be a starting point for qualifications, but any classes that are excluded from the USDA’s own list may sue to be considered for compensation anyways. The discrimination outlined in the claim must have taken place prior to January 1st, 2021.

Can I file an estate claim for Discrimination Financial Assistance?

As of early June 2023, we do not know for certain if estate claims can be filed on behalf of deceased farmers, ranchers, and landowners who experienced discrimination. If estate claims are allowed by the USDA, they will likely take significant effort to prove discrimination occurred, and it may be challenging to determine who should benefit from the estate.

That being said, the upper limit for claims is $500,000, which indicates that the legislature may have been trying to acknowledge how discrimination can prevent the accumulation of generational wealth. In that case, it would make sense to have estate claims qualify for Discrimination Financial Assistance.

Which lending programs qualify under the IRA?

Not all types of USDA or farm related loans are automatically eligible for compensation under the IRA. Direct FSA farm loan program loans are eligible, as are guaranteed loans where discrimination was perpetrated by the FSA.

Guaranteed loans rejected by non-USDA lenders will likely qualify for compensation under the IRA, but we are still awaiting confirmation. The legislation does not explicitly state that the USDA must be the discriminatory party, only that the discrimination must have taken place in the context of a USDA farm loan program, which seems to indicate that these types of loans may be eligible. Non-farm loans from the USDA and non-FSA guaranteed loans from private lenders are excluded from receiving Discrimination Financial Discrimination under the IRA.

Why Should I Choose Osborne & Francis to Represent Me?

When you are at risk of losing your family legacy or at the edge of financial ruin, you can’t afford to hire an inexperienced or uninterested personal injury attorney to represent you. At Osborne & Francis, we take this issue personally. Our own Greg Francis championed the rights of Black farmers who had been treated unfairly by the USDA in a massive class action lawsuit in 2010. He secured a 1.25 billion dollar settlement for the plaintiffs and their families, which is the largest civil rights settlement in U.S. history. 

At Osborne & Francis, our accomplished, trustworthy team of tough negotiators won’t hesitate to stand up for your right to recover compensation. With our consistent record of securing settlements, you can rest assured that we won’t relent until we are satisfied that you are being treated fairly. You can expect that the civil rights attorneys of Osborne & Francis will provide your claim with the attention it deserves throughout the process as we work to maximize your compensation.

Farmers Trust Osborne & Francis to Advocate for Their Rights. Contact Our Team Today for a Free Case Evaluation

At Osborne & Francis, we are unapologetic when it comes to protecting our clients best interests. We also understand that as a result of discrimination, you and your family may have lost much more than just your source of income. That’s why our team is dedicated to assisting farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners in filing claims against the USDA under the Inflation Reduction Act.

We have decades of combined experience litigating personal injury claims, and a background in handling these specific types of claims that will undoubtedly prove beneficial. The civil rights attorneys of Osborne & Francis can be trusted to secure the compensation you deserve, even if that means taking your claim to trial. Farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who have experienced discriminatory treatment while seeking out a loan in the context of the USDA’s farm loan program should consider submitting a claim under the IRA. 

The personal injury lawyers of Osborne & Francis are available to help you navigate this process and answer any additional questions you may have. You can reach us at (561) 678-0156 or contact our offices in Boca Raton or Orlando to schedule a free consultation with one of our civil rights lawyers to review the facts of your case, evaluate your damages, and get a better idea of what the  personal injury claims process entails.

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