(USA Features) A federal judge ruled Friday that a Department of Agriculture program that is part of the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan seeking to help “socially disadvantaged” farmers discriminates against whites.
The ruling comes after Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, a Republican, filed suit against the administration, saying the USDA violated the Constitution’s equal protection clauses as well as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by excluding farmers from a loan forgiveness program based on their race.
“The lawsuit says the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed by Congress last month includes provisions for the forgiveness of loans to ‘socially disadvantaged’ farmers or ranchers of up to 120% of the value of the loan,” Courthouse News Service reported at the time.
“It claims other federal laws limit help for white farmers and ranchers, including the Agriculture Department being required to give preference to grant applications filed by ‘socially disadvantaged’ farmers or ranchers,” the news agency added.
U.S. District Judge William Griesbach ordered the $4 billion USDA program temporarily halted after ruling that the USDA’s “use of race-based criteria in the administration of the program violates their right to equal protection under the law.”
“We respectfully disagree with this temporary order and USDA will continue to forcefully defend our ability to carry out this act of Congress and deliver debt relief to socially disadvantaged borrowers. When the temporary order is lifted, USDA will be prepared to provide the debt relief authorized by Congress,” USDA spokesman Matt Herrick told NBC News.
A Chilton, Wisconsin, dairy farmer with two prosthetic legs filed suit as well, along with four other white farmers from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, and South Dakota.
“In March 2021, the United States retreated from the principle of equality under the law by enacting a race-based loan-forgiveness program in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). Among other things, ARPA provides billions of dollars of debt relief to ‘socially disadvantaged’ farmers and ranchers,” their lawsuit states.
“The phrase ‘socially disadvantaged’ includes explicit racial classifications: to be eligible for ARPA’s debt relief, farmers and ranchers must be Black or African American, American Indian or Alaskan native, Hispanic or Latino, or Asian American or Pacific Islander,” the suit continued. “Other farmers—white farmers, for example—are ineligible.”
“It was just out and out racist, and I really don’t think that there should be racism allowed in the federal government at any level,” Adam Faust, the Chilton farmer who was born with spina bifida and tends to about 70 milk cows on his 200-acre farm, told Fox11.
“I mean, racism against anybody is wrong. We can’t have a government picking and choosing who they are going to give any program to based solely on the color of their skin,” he continued.
“Everything that we have all learned growing up is racism was wrong, and now, all of a sudden, the federal government seems to think that racism is acceptable in certain ways,” Faust added.