The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund signed an MOU with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights last week to support its Regional Heirs Property and Mediation Center. This partnership will bolster the Federation’s efforts to assist minority and other socially disadvantaged landowners who own heirs’ property and/or experience land-related disputes across the U.S. South.
For historically underserved communities, the lack of clear land titles or heirs’ property is one of the greatest barriers to accessing USDA programs. This MOU provides a working framework for cooperation between the Office and the Federation to increase access to USDA programs by minority farmers and ranchers.
The primary purpose of the MOU is to recognize the Federation’s Regional Heirs Property and Mediation Center as an outreach service center with a primary focus on its membership of minority and socially disadvantaged landowners across the southern region.
Over the past 50 years, the Federation’s mission has been to reverse the trend of African American land loss and encourage land based economic development. The Regional Heirs Property and Mediation Center will work cooperatively with the USDA Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights to identify traditionally underserved landowners within the southern states and assist them in resolving heirs’ property, land retention and estate planning issues through mediation, legal assistance, outreach and education. Currently, the Federation serves as the USDA’s Certified Agricultural Mediation Program in Georgia and Mississippi.
Measurable indicators will be an increase in the number of minority and socially disadvantaged landowners who are knowledgeable about land retention programs and services and are accessing specific USDA programs that support and secure their land tenure.
The Federation, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, assists Black family farmers across the U.S. South with farm management, debt restructuring, alternative crop suggestions, marketing expertise and an entire range of services to ensure family farm survivability.