A group of white farmers from Midwestern states are suing President Joe Biden’s administration over a financial assistance program the excludes them based “solely” on the color of their skin.
The legal team representing the farmers, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, state in their complaint filed this week that the Department of Agriculture’s “use of racial discrimination as a tool to end ‘systemic racism’ is … unconstitutional,” urging the court to enjoin the practice.
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According to the USDA website, the loan forgiveness program within the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 will “pay up to 120% of loan balances … for Farm Service Agency (FSA) Direct and Guaranteed Farm Loans and Farm Storage Facility Loans debt relief to any socially disadvantaged producer who has a qualifying loan with FSA.”
“Socially disadvantaged producers” are only farmers who are “black/African American, American Indian, Alaskan Native, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, or Pacific Islander.”
Farmers who happen to be white don’t qualify for the assistance.
Adam Faust, a dairy farmer included in the lawsuit against the Biden administration, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel there “should absolutely be no federal dollars going anywhere just based on race.”
He went on to explain that the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic “didn’t hurt any race more than another as far as agriculture goes.”
“Were plaintiffs eligible for the loan forgiveness benefit, 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,” the lawsuit states. “Because plaintiffs are ineligible to even apply for the program solely due to their race, they have been denied the equal protection of the law and therefore suffered harm.”
During a recent appearance on Fox News, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) condemned the USDA initiative, stating, “If you’re a white person, if you’re a white woman, no forgiveness [from the USDA]. That’s reparations. What does that have to do with COVID?”
“These people in the Congress today — the House and the Senate on the Democratic side — are out of control liberals,” he said. “God help us all if we don’t check and balance them in 2022.”
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) likewise condemned the program as “unconstitutional” and said Congress shouldn’t approve aid that would only go toward people of the “right race.”
“Is this what the Democrats have in mind for ‘racial equity?’” he asked.
A white farmer, struggling to get by in Appalachia or anywhere else in the nation, is disqualified because of his skin color. Is this what the Democrats have in mind for ‘racial equity’?https://t.co/plkgISl5yC
— Senator Pat Toomey (@SenToomey) March 6, 2021
In late March, the USDA defended the ethnicity-based program:
USDA recognizes that socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers have faced systemic discrimination with cumulative effects that have, among other consequences, led to a substantial loss in the number of socially disadvantaged producers, reduced the amount of farmland they control, and contributed to a cycle of debt that was exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the pandemic, socially disadvantaged communities saw a disproportionate amount of COVID-19 infection rates, loss of property, hospitalizations, death, and economic hurt.”
Dirk Fillpot, a spokesperson for the USDA, told the Journal Sentinel the agency is reviewing the legal complaint with the Department of Justice.
“During this review,” he said, “we will continue to implement the debt relief to qualified socially disadvantaged borrowers under the American Rescue Plan Act.”