Stone Child Helps Farmers Get Ag CreditAug 15th, 1999 | By tcj | Category: 10-4: Native Arts Education, Tribal College News
For decades, American Indian farmers and ranchers have said that they have suffered from discrimination by lending agencies, including the federal government. A Civil Rights Report in February 1997 confirmed that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had not effectively protected or promoted Indian and other minority farmers. (TCJ, Vol. 9, No. 4, page38).
Since fall 1997, Stone Child College (Box Elder, Mont.) has coordinated a USDA project to change that history on the seven reservations in Montana. The project assists Native American youth and adults to understand what credit programs are available and helps those interested throughout the application process. Stone Child College hired three outreach liaisons to cover the Montana territory for the Farm Service Agency (FSA) Agriculture Credit Outreach. The college received a five year, $201,679 grant from USDA.
In the past year, Stone Child’s pilot project has focused upon credit, closing youth loans on the Rocky Boy and Northern Cheyenne Reservations and larger, adult loans (as much as $178,000) on the Fort Belknap and Crow Reservations. The college’s Ag Credit Outreach Program has also assisted Tribal Extension Agents and local FSA County Offices to educate local producers about the FSA County Committee voting and election process. This has resulted in greater representation from Indian producers on these committees. The program brought W.I.R.E. (Western Integrated Resource Education program) from Montana State University-Bozeman to Little Big Horn College on the Crow Reservation for the first time.
Farm Service Agency Ag Credit Outreach Director Mary Phalen said her staff works with the Intertribal Agriculture Council Advocates when individuals need assistance after their loans are closed. By working directly with the local producers, they learn about the obstacles they face and convey that information to the county and state FSA offices. Youth aged 10-20 who live in a rural area with less than 10,000 people can apply for the FSA youth loans up to $5,000 for income-producing projects. Direct FSA loans are available to adults for both farm ownership and operating loans, with a maximum of $200,000. Stone Child College may expand the program into Wyoming. For more information on this program, contact: Mary Phalen, FSA Ag Credit Outreach Director at Stone Child College (406)395-4313 or e-mail <Mary.Phalen@hi-line.net >.