NEWS & ANALYSIS

Farmers Sue Agriculture Department Over Loan Forgiveness Only For Minorities


A group of five farmers is suing federal officials over the new FSA loan-forgiveness program, which provides relief to farmers so long as they are a minority. 

Provided as part of COVID-19 relief in Joe Biden’s $2 trillion American Rescue Plan, the program officers “socially disadvantaged” farmers $4 billion in loan-forgiveness, which includes direct payments of up to 20 percent of the loan value. 

Specifically, the law says those eligible must be “Black/African American, American Indian or Alaskan native, Hispanic or Latino, or Asian American or Pacific Islander.” 

“There is a case for loan forgiveness for individuals,” dairy farmer Christopher Baird said. “But we shouldn’t be looking at the color of someone’s skin and sayin , ‘This person needs more help or less help based on the color of their skin.’ That’s just wrong.” 

Baird is among the five white farmers from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, and South Dakota who are suing Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux, alleging racial discrimination and violation of their right to equal protection under the Constitution. 

The farmers filed the lawsuit Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Wisconsin. The group’s lawyer seeks a temporary injunction preventing the Biden administration from applying racial classifications in determining loan eligibility, per the Daily Signal

The Agriculture Department is in the process of reviewing the complaint and working with the Justice Department, a spokesman said, but USDA has no intention of stopping the program. 

“During this review, we will continue to implement the debt relief to qualified socially disadvantaged borrowers under the American Rescue Plan Act,” the spokesman said.