A federal judge in Wisconsin has halted the Biden administration’s debt relief program for minority farmers, issuing a restraining order that will freeze the $4 billion initiative while a lawsuit filed by a group of white farmers claiming discrimination proceeds.
In late April, Republican Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller sued the Biden administration, saying the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) violated the U.S. Constitution and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it excluded farmers from the loan forgiveness program based on 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 Department of Agriculture had started the process of forgiving the loans this month.
But the judge, William C. Griesbach, said in the order that he was freezing the program because the farmers who filed the lawsuit were likely to succeed in making the case that the government’s “use of race-based criteria in the administration of the program violates their right to equal protection under the law.”
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: WBTW
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