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Government aims to make federal loans more accessible to Native American farmers

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Cattle grazing land leased by Janie VanWinkle but left unused due to a lack of rain or water irrigation system during the historic western Colorado drought on June 30, 2021 in Mesa County near Whitewater, Colorado.

When farmers apply for federal loans, they often put up land as collateral, which can be complicated on tribal lands. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

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Agricultural businesses run by tribal nations and some farmers and ranchers working on tribal land say they have a hard time accessing federal loans. This week, the federal Farm Credit Administration announced a new effort and a partnership to address that problem.

When farmers and ranchers apply for federal loans, they often put up land as collateral. 

“And that’s very complicated on tribal lands,” said Alicia Puente Cackley, who looked into this for the Government Accountability Office.

Some producers working inside the borders of a tribal nation don’t own that land outright, she said. “Lenders don’t always understand or are not always sure whether they have the ability to collect if a loan goes into default.”

So, she said farmers have a hard time accessing credit.

Toni Stanger-McLaughlin heads up the Native American Agriculture Fund, which is working with the Farm Credit Administration to address this problem. She said that step one is training federal lenders about working with tribes. 

“When we have more decision-makers that have this background and education, they’re gonna be a lot more confident entering into these arrangements with tribes.”

One goal, she said, is for Native producers who’ve been rejected in the past to see federal loans as an option. 

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