By: Konrad Holden
Last week, a federal judge placed an injunction on a $4 billion relief program aimed at helping farmers hit hard by the pandemic. Although many farmers are in need of aid, not all struggling farmers are eligible, due to some of the restrictions specified in the program. The program, passed by Congress in the American Rescue Plan and signed into law by President Biden, required the money to go specifically to the ‘socially disadvantaged’, automatically disqualifying all white farmers, despite their potentially equal levels of financial hardship.
Scott Wynn, a Florida farmer of sweet potatoes, corn, and cattle, brought suit against the Biden administration for the $4 billion debt forgiveness program. He was not allowed to apply for the program because he is white.
According to the USDA, the program is available for those who fall under the definition of ‘socially disadvantaged’ outlined in section 2501 of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990. The definition specifically does not include white people.
Last Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard halted the debt forgiveness program, labeling it discrimination.
Judge Howard issued a call to Congress to “heed its obligation to do away with governmentally imposed discrimination based on race.”
When the program was initially frozen in early June, USDA spokesman Matt Herrick made a statement saying, “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.”
The court also ruled that the USDA could continue preparing the program while the case is appealed.
“This program is discriminatory because it bases eligibility for loan forgiveness solely on the basis of being a member of a minority group, regardless of your circumstances.” - Attorney Wen Fa, Pacific Legal Foundation