TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation signed a $2 million loan agreement with the USDA on Tuesday as part of the USDA Heirs’ Property Relending Program.
The USDA made the $2 million loan available to Cherokee Nation to relend to Cherokee citizens who are heirs to farmland and need help resolving ownership and succession issues.
Heirs’ property is family land that has been passed down to descendants without a will or deed to prove ownership. Without proof of ownership, it may become difficult for heirs to obtain federal benefits for farms and could force partition sales by third parties. Heirs’ property issues have long been a barrier for many producers and landowners to access USDA programs and services, and the relending program provides access to capital to help heirs find a resolution, according to the USDA.
The Cherokee Nation Commerce Department will oversee the tribe’s heirs’ property relending program by making loans available to help resolve title issues by financing the purchase or consolidation of property interests and financing costs associated with a succession plan.
“We run across families who have a barrier to prosperity from land title issues being unresolved, not gone through probate or fractionated interests and this is a way we can help,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. at Tuesday’s signing. “We know that our Cherokee families might be overwhelmed and may need assistance with the process of how to navigate these types of heir property ownership issues and we hope this relending program can help make it easier.”
The loans to Cherokee citizens can also be used to buy out fractional interests of other heirs in jointly-owned property to clear the title, and can include closing costs, appraisals, title searches, surveys, preparing documents, mediation, and legal services, according to the USDA.
“For us to be able to serve as that intermediary and be a door of opportunity for individuals to walk through and really take hold of things our citizens need to and look toward the USDA’s valuable resources will add great value for our families,” Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said.
USDA officials visiting the Cherokee Nation Tuesday for the loan closing included Raenata Walker, the USDA Branch Chief Direct Loans and Funds Management in Washington, D.C.; Cherokee County USDA Farm Service Agency Executive Director Drew Vandiver; Larry Daniel, Oklahoma Farm Loan Chief; and Jack Carlile, Farm Loan Manager for Cherokee County Service Center.
“Through this opportunity, heirs can formalize land ownership and succession issues, which have long prevented so many from accessing USDA programs and services,” said Zach Ducheneaux, Administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) in a released statement of the relending program with Cherokee Nation. “USDA is committed to revising policies to be more equitable and this program is an instrumental part of the effort to provide opportunities to bring and keep agricultural land in agriculture and allow producers nationwide to create generational wealth.”
Cherokee Nation is among the first three lenders for the Heirs’ Property Relending Program.
“I’m excited about the program and think there are a lot of Cherokee citizens and farmers and ranchers in northeast Oklahoma that will be able to take advantage and solidify the land ownership issues and keep our farms together and producing,” said Anna Knight, Cherokee Nation Director of Commerce.
For more information on the USDA Heirs Property Relending Program:
Eligible Cherokee Nation citizens can apply for the loan by contacting Cherokee Nation Commerce at 918-453-5536.