5 White Farmers Sue Biden Administration For Stimulus Package Racial Discrimination
Five white farmers from the Midwest filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration for alleged discrimination since they were excluded from a Federal Covid stimulus package forgiveness program. The farmers are from Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Ohio, and all have direct loans with the Farm Service Agency or USDA-backed loans.
The plaintiffs seek unspecified damages and a court order that prohibits the Federal government from applying racial classifications when considering eligibility for loan modifications and payments under the COVID-19 stimulus plan.
The Biden administration created the pandemic loan forgiveness program for minority farm owners. The white farm owners allege their exclusion amounts to a violation of their constitutional rights.
The United States Constitution "forbids" discrimination by the federal government "against any citizen because of his race."
Plaintiffs Adam Faust, Christopher. Baird, Jonathan Stevens, Jay Slaba, and Joseph Schmitz filed their lawsuit in the District Court for the Eastern District Court of Wisconsin against Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack and Administrator of U.S. The Farm Service Agency Zach Ducheneaux.
The plaintiffs chose the defendants who run the national loan-forgiveness program through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA).
The farmers, in their lawsuit, claim the "Defendants assert that the purpose of this program is to remedy "systemic racism" within USDA and more broadly "across agriculture."
In court papers, the farmers allege that the U.S. "retreated from the principle of equality under the law by enacting a race-based loan-forgiveness program in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). Among other things, ARPA provides billions of dollars of debt relief to "socially disadvantaged" farmers and ranchers.
The phrase "socially disadvantaged" includes explicit racial classifications: to be eligible for ARPA's debt relief, farmers and ranchers must be Black or African American, American Indian or Alaskan Native, Hispanic or Latino, or Asian American or Pacific Islander. Other farmers—white farmers, for example—are ineligible."
The farmers claim that other than their being white, they are eligible for the loan-forgiveness program in ARPA. They allege that except for the color of their skin, as white farmers, they are ineligible for this government benefit.
Dairy Farmer and plaintiff Faust, who owns a dairy farm in Wisconsin, is a double-amputee. Faust must handle the milking of about seventy cows and farm his 200 acres for feed. Faust claims he would be eligible for the existing loan forgiveness program in Section 1005 of ARPA, except that he is white.
Each of the remaining plaintiffs lists in court papers how they qualify for the loan-forgiveness program in every way, except that their race is white.
The March 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) has about $5 billion available in loan forgiveness for "socially disadvantaged" farmers and ranchers who have been "disproportionately" harmed by COVID-19.
The definition of "socially disadvantaged" is described by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as farmers or ranchers who "have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group, including Blacks, American Indians, Hispanics, Alaskan natives, Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders."
Attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that the goal of ending "systemic racism" as proposed by the ARPA does not "override the constitutional ban on race discrimination."
In court papers, the plaintiffs point to the Supreme Court decisions in Fisher v. Univ. of Texas at Austin, 570 U.S. 297 (2013) and Cmty. Sch. v. Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1, 551 U.S. 701 (2007), among others. The complaint quotes from these opinions where the court "rejected the interest in remedying societal discrimination because it had no logical stopping point” and stated that “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." In the plaintiffs’ view, the "defendants' use of race discrimination as a tool to end "systemic racism," is therefore unconstitutional and should be enjoined by this Court."
The USDA reports there are only 45,000 Black farmers among the total 3.4 million farmers in the U.S.
The USDA released a statement about the lawsuit, saying a full review of the complaint is underway, and their loan-forgiveness payback program is ongoing.