Federal Judge Halts Debt Relief Program for Farmers of Color

Included in a larger Covid-19 relief bill, the Biden administration program, which a group of white farmers say is racially discriminatory, will be paused while the court considers a firmer injunction.

A decision from a federal judge late Thursday put the brakes on a government program offering loan forgiveness only to farmers of color, which a lawsuit says is unconstitutionally discriminatory against white farmers.


As part of the American Rescue Plan Act signed in March, President Joe Biden’s administration rolled out a loan forgiveness program intended to provide billions of dollars in debt relief to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, namely those who are Black, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian, Asian American or Pacific Islander.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, a conservative advocacy group also known as WILL, sued Biden’s Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Zach Ducheneaux, chief of the Farm Service Agency, in April on behalf of a group of white farmers claiming they are being unlawfully denied a government benefit solely due to the color of their skin.

The number of plaintiffs has grown to a dozen since the complaint was filed, including white farmers and ranchers from Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Missouri, Ohio, Iowa, Arkansas, Oregon and Kentucky, who claim denying them the program’s benefits– including payment of up to 120% of a socially disadvantaged farmer’s debt– violates their constitutional rights.

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