Published March 1, 2002 | March 2002 issue
Over the last four years, the American Indian Credit Outreach Initiative has doubled the number of Montana American Indians who have accessed Farm Service Agency (FSA) loans, and cut delinquency rates by more than half. In 2001, Indians secured 87 FSA loans worth $6.3 million in Montana, and the delinquency rate was 11 percent, compared with 44 FSA loans in 1997 that totaled $2.8 million, with a 35 percent delinquency rate.
The program makes it easier for American Indians to secure loans by connecting tribal members with a liaison officer, often a member of their own tribe, who can make the application process less intimidating.
So successful is the program, which came out of Stone Child Tribal College in Box Elder, that Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman plans to replicate it nationally over the next seven years.
In February, a program was held in Billings to train 13 liaison officers for the first phase of expansion across Montana and nine other Rocky Mountain states.