MARION COUNTY, Fla. — A new program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture called the Discrimination Financial Assistance Program is addressing inequality in agriculture. The U.S. Congress passed $2.2 billion worth of funding to help farmers who faced discrimination in the USDA Farm Loan programs before 2021.

What You Need To Know

  • A new USDA program called Discrimination Financial Assistance is open as part of the Inflation Reduction Act

  • Congress OK'd  $2.2 billion for farmers and ranchers who faced discrimination in any USDA farm loan program before 2021

  • If approved, that farmer or rancher could get up to $500,000

  • Eligible farmers or ranchers have until Oct. 31, 2023 to apply online or at the local USDA DFAP office

Picking the fruits of his labor, Matt Bowman comes from multiple generations of farming.

“I tell people I went from one swamp to another. This is very familiar to me," Bowman said. "My grandfather was a sharecropper. You know how they say it takes one man to take a man out of poverty and change their lives? He was that man.”

For Bowman, his love for farm and agriculture is in his blood. But he sees a threat on the horizon for small farmers.

“What we’re seeing in agriculture is land lost," he said. "Frequently, they talk about land lost in the sense of African Americans losing land, but all small farmers are losing land. We need to stop that tide.” 

That’s why Bowman wants to see his fellow farmers take part in the Discrimination Financial Assistance. If approved, each farmer or rancher could get up to $500,000. 

“It’s not what most people think about. It’s not Black faces, not brown faces. It’s any American who has gone into a loan, very specific to loans,” Bowman said.

It’s the skills that come with the land that Bowman wants to pass down to his children.

“When farmers, ranchers, and landowners lose their family property, there is no amount of money that can make them whole. But this program isn’t designed to make people whole. It’s financial assistance,” he said.

Marion County is home to about 3,500 farms, according to the area’s farm bureau, and Bowman wants to show his daughter Margaret that there is a future in farming and it’s something she can do.

“What we’re doing now is saving agriculture for America," Bowman said. "So that in Marion County 50 to 100 years from now there will be small farmers, farmers that have less than 100 acres who can continue to farm, who can continue to ranch and continue to provide food for their family.”

As Bowman looks at the future generation of farmers, he said he hopes he can do something now, so small farmers can continue growing in the future.

Applications will be accepted until Oct. 31, 2023 either online or at your local USDA DFAP office. You can also get free assistance with applying for the program.