White Farmers Sue Government For Minority Debt Relief
Farmers in the Midwest have united to file a lawsuit against the federal government, alleging racial bias is taking place because they cannot participate in the recent COVID-19 loan forgiveness program because they are white.
The plaintiffs – farmers from Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota and Ohio – sued the federal government over the announcement that minority farmers will be eligible for $4 billion in debt relief (as well as $1 billion in other education and grant programs), thanks to the Farmers of Color Emergency Relief Actwhich was included in the COVID-19 relief bill earlier this year.
The Colored Farmers Emergency Relief Act directs Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to “pay to each lender of agricultural loans guaranteed by the Secretary an amount equal to the principal and interest unpaid at the date of enactment of this Act on all agricultural loans held by the lender, the borrowers of which are socially disadvantaged farmers and herders, so that the borrowers are relieved of the obligation to repay the principal and interest due on such agricultural loans guaranteed.
However, the Midwestern plaintiffs believe they are also being discriminated against. the trial states: “If applicants were eligible for loan forgiveness compensation, they would have the opportunity to make additional investments in their property, expand their farms, purchase equipment and supplies and otherwise support their families. and local communities. Because the plaintiffs are not even eligible to apply for the program solely on the basis of their race, they were denied the equal protection of the law and therefore suffered prejudice.
the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) sued on behalf of the five farmers in four states. Adam Faust, one of the plaintiffs from Calumet County, Wis., said, “There absolutely shouldn’t be federal dollars going anywhere based solely on race. The economic impact of COVID-19 has not hurt one breed more than another when it comes to farming.
The US Department of Agriculture released a statement saying it was reviewing the lawsuit with the US Department of Justice, but there were no plans to stop payments that benefit minority farmers, according to The Associated Press. Vilsack also noted in a previous maintenance that only 0.1% of previous coronavirus relief money went to black farmers, though it’s unclear how many black farmers applied for or were eligible for such money. According to Vilsack, black farmers received $20.8 million out of nearly $26 billion in two rounds of payments under the coronavirus food aid package.
Black farmers as a whole in the United States have experienced reductions in the number of farmers and total acres over the past century. Between 1900 and 1974, the number of farmers decreased by about 60%, while the number of black farmers decreased by 94% over the same period. Additionally, by 1920, black farms operated 45 million acres, mostly in the South. In 2017, that shrunk to just 1.1 million acres.
More than two decades ago, the USDA found itself in the crosshairs of a lawsuit from the black farming community, detailing decades-long biases on the part of the federal agency. Although this lawsuit has long been settled, this week’s lawsuit is not the only recent discrimination lawsuit that has been brought against the federal government by actors in the agriculture industry. In a similar lawsuit, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is suing the USDA, personally. Supported by America First Legal, Miller filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The lawsuit alleged that the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 discriminated against US citizen farmers and ranchers based on their race. Specifically, Sections 1005 and 1006 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provide benefits to farmers and ranchers, but exclude many potential beneficiaries based solely on their ethnicity or race.
Additionally, two Republican lawmakers — U.S. Representatives Tom Tiffany (Wis.) and Burgess Owens (Utah) — announced in April that they planned to introduce the Civil Rights and Equality in Agriculture Act (ACRE Act), which would prohibit USDA officials from discriminating against or giving preferential treatment to any person on the basis of race, color, national origin, or sex. This, too, was launched in response to black farmers and other minorities receiving the $5 billion in aid from the COVID Relief Bill.