By: Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation
President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law on Tuesday afternoon. The Inflation Reduction Act will incentivize unprecedented shifts toward renewable energy, electric vehicles, and curbing methane emissions from fossil fuel production. The historic bill also includes billions for sustainable agriculture and includes a provision that provides debt relief to underserved landowners including farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners.
“A critical component of this landmark bill is that it includes appropriations of $250 million to provide grants and loans to improve land access including heirs’ property and fractionated land issues,” said Dr. Jennie L. Stephens, Chief Executive Officer for the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation. “We thank Congress for including these important investments for underserved farmers, foresters, and landowners. The funding in this bill will hopefully allow us to increase the number of South Carolina families we are able to help not only in keeping their land, but in creating wealth for future generations.”
Heirs’ property is a significant issue in South Carolina and refers to land that has been passed from one generation to the next without a will so that the land is owned “in common” by multiple heirs. Heirs’ property is the leading cause of Black land loss in the country.
Earlier this year, the United States Department of Agriculture announced members of their newly established Equity Commission and its Subcommittee on Agriculture, of which, Dr. Jennie L. Stephens was appointed.
“The members of the Agriculture Subcommittee, of which I serve, have been discussing this historic bill and we have been ecstatic about the programs that will benefit historically underserved landowners,” Stephens said. “Regarding the land access assistance, I’m very pleased that heirs’ property families can now benefit from grants received by nonprofit organizations to resolve title issues. Our hope is that The Inflation Reduction Act marks a major turning point in the long struggle to provide Black farmers with not only loan relief and restructuring for farmers in financial distress, but also compensation for those who can prove they were subject to USDA discrimination in the past.”
The Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation™ has been protecting heirs’ property through legal education and direct legal services since 2005. In 2013, the Center began promoting the sustainable use of land through forestry education and services to provide increased economic benefit to low-wealth family landowners. The Center provides legal and forestry services in Allendale, Bamberg, Beaufort, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dillion, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, Orangeburg, Sumter and Williamsburg counties.
To date, the Center has provided 3,569 persons with free, one-hour “Advice and Counsel” (A&C) with 955 clients receiving direct legal services to clear title. A total of 1,418 simple wills have been drafted at free, community Wills Clinics; more than 503 families (who collectively own more than 40,000 acres) have benefited from various levels of education and expert resources to develop and implement sustainable forestry management plans and 301 titles have been cleared on family land with a total tax-assessed value of $18.3 million.