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The deadline for applying for assistance in recovering from discriminatory behavior by the U.S.  Department of Agriculture is coming up fast. 

Native American farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who experienced discrimination by USDA lending programs prior to January 2021 are eligible for funding through the Discrimination Financial Assistance Program, colloquially known as the "22007 program" after the section where it appears in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.  

Applications for relief must be submitted at 22007apply.gov before Jan. 13, 2024. A statement issued last month by the USDA stresses that applying is free and does not require a lawyer.

The website offers applicants free technical assistance in-person or virtually. Applicants who need help via other avenues are invited to call the free call center at 1-800-721-0970 or visit one of several dozen brick-and-mortar offices the program has set up around the country. Locations are provided on the program website.

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The original deadline for these applications was Oct. 31 of this year, but feedback indicated that the deadline was considered too short. The deadline for retrieving records from the USDA for purposes of this application passed on Nov. 3. 

The program has been open since July of this year following the program's announcement in 2022. The measure is an amended attempt at debt relief after promised USDA aid to "socially disadvantaged farmers" offered in 2021 was stymied by injunctions asserting the original debt relief efforts were, themselves, discriminatory. 

“USDA knows it must earn the trust of the farmers, ranchers and forest landowners who are eligible for this program. That makes transparency in the administration of the Discrimination Financial Assistance Program crucial,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement when the deadline extension was first announced. “In that spirit, after receiving feedback from organizations that have been supporting producers throughout the application process, we have made the decision to extend the deadline. We believe this is the appropriate action to take to ensure all eligible individuals wishing to apply are adequately informed about the program and have the opportunity to receive any necessary assistance.”

Initial disbursements were planned for early this year under the original Oct. 31 deadline, but the USDA has not provided new guidance on when late disbursements would be issued.

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