Farm Labor Housing Assistance for Louisiana Agriculture

By Dr. Carrie Castille, Louisiana Director, USDA Rural Development

 Dr. Carrie Castille, Louisiana Director, USDA Rural Development

Dr. Carrie Castille, Louisiana Director, USDA Rural Development

Agriculture in Louisiana continues to be a major contributor to the state’s economy. Many rural communities depend on agriculture, forestry, fisheries and wildlife for their livelihood. In order for Louisiana to maintain a viable agriculture industry, farmers ranchers and fisherman must have a stable workforce. There are self-employed, or family owned and operated farms that rely on hired farmworkers to harvest the food we love.

While some of the workforce is local, Louisiana’s agricultural producers may use the H-2A temporary guest worker program if they are unable to fill all needed positions in general farm or field work with U.S. citizens. Other Louisiana industries, such as sugar mills, plant nurseries and seafood processors, may participate in the H-2B visa program to secure foreign workers for nonagricultural positions if they cannot fill those positions with U.S. citizens.

 “Finding suitable housing for temporary agriculture workers has always been a challenge faced by our farmers and producers,” Secretary Perdue said. “The seasonal workers coming to the United States do tremendous work for American agriculture. I am pleased that USDA programs can now better assist farmers needing to provide housing while they’re here. I thank Congress for addressing this issue in its most recent funding bill and hope to continue the conversation on farm labor for our agriculture industry.”

For FY 2018, USDA plans to award up to $23.8 million in low-interest loans and $8.3 million in grants. Individual requests may not exceed $3 million (total loan and grant). The request can consist of loan only, grant only, or a combination of loan and grant. The grant cannot exceed 90 percent of the total project cost.

Through the USDA Rural Development Farm Labor Housing (FLH) program, pre-applications are currently being accepted for the FLH Direct Loans and Grants. This program provides funding to construct, improve, repair and purchase housing for domestic farmworkers in rural and urban areas to house nearby farm labor. The funds can also be used for related support facilities such as to lease a site or to build housing units, day care centers or community rooms.

Eligible applicants for grant and loans includes broad-based non-profit organization, including community and Faith-Based organizations, non-profit organization of farmworkers, federally recognized Indian tribe, State or local Government, or a public agency (such as a housing authority). Also, eligible for off-farm FLH loans are nonprofit entities as its general partner unable to provide necessary housing and unable to obtain similar credit elsewhere that would allow for rents within the payment ability of eligible residents. Grants are available if you qualify and can be used to construct new off-farm FLH units and related facilities as well as for purchase and rehab of non-FLH.

USDA encourages applications that will support recommendations made in the report to the President from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to help improve life in rural America. Applicants are encouraged to consider projects that provide measurable results in helping rural communities build robust and sustainable economies through strategic investments in infrastructure, partnerships and innovation. Key strategies include:

Achieving e-Connectivity for Rural America
Developing the Rural Economy
Harnessing Technological Innovation
Supporting a Rural Workforce
Improving Quality of Life

Pre-applications are due Aug. 27, 2018. You can contact the Rural Development Multi-Family Housing Department by emailing scott.pousson@la.usda.gov or (318) 473-7962.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. If you have any questions, please contact me, carrie.castille@la.usda.gov or (318) 473.7921, to let us know how we can help.