Black farmer loan forgiveness challenged

Two different lawsuits are now challenging a USDA loan forgiveness program for farmers of color, including black farmers, contained in the COVID relief package advanced in the early days of the Biden administration and Congress-controlled Congress. democrats. While the USDA and congressional authors defend the program, lawsuits say it creates reverse discrimination.

The US bailout included provisions for the USDA to pay up to 120% of loan balances, effective January 1, 2021, for direct and guaranteed agricultural loans from the Agricultural Services Agency and loans for on-farm storage facilities ready with FSA. However, unlike past use of the definition of “socially disadvantaged producers,” the latest loan forgiveness does not apply to white women. Previously, all women were included in the socially disadvantaged categorization.

USDA says it has taken important steps to enact these debt relief provisions, including contacting lenders, distributing loan cancellation resources, and collecting data on eligible borrowers.

RELATED: Vilsack Offers Sneak Peek at $ 5 Billion in Aid to Black Farmers

Following news of the lawsuits, a USDA spokesperson said the agency was reviewing the complaint and working with the Department of Justice. “During this review, we will continue to implement debt relief to socially disadvantaged borrowers qualified under the American Rescue Plan Act,” the spokesperson said.

To date, no formal action has been taken to start canceling loans.

Defending the intention to right the wrongs

Senator Cory Booker, DN.J. drafted the loan forgiveness provisions and believes the lawsuit has no merit. He says there is “a well-documented history of overt discrimination by the USDA against black farmers targeting black farmers and denying them opportunities that have been offered to others.”

Booker says that in discussions with Midwestern farmers, many are very proud of the original 1800s land grants through the Homestead Act. However, black people have been excluded from these programs, which creates a need to create a “just program that begins to create land grant opportunities for black farmers and other farmers of color is really critical.”

Speaking to a group of agricultural journalists, Dr Lakisha Odom, director of the Food and Agriculture Research Foundation’s science program, said she struggles with the term “reverse racism” because it implies that there is a system of oppression.

“Because we haven’t dealt with the current system, I don’t know if we’re creating another by addressing equity and parity,” Odom says. “Any policy put in place to tackle the centuries of systemic oppression facing black and brown farmers is something we badly need.”

John W. Boyd, Jr., founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association, says the debt relief in the US bailout is tightly tailored to address decades of systemic denial of black farmers and other farmers. color access to USDA loans and other perks that created a level playing field that “entrenched racism in these federal programs.”

Claims of reverse discrimination

The first one trial challenges the constitutionality of equal rights as the cancellation of the loan does not apply to white farmers. It is filed by former employees of President Trump who now work at American First Legal on behalf of Sid Miller in a private capacity, although Miller also serves as Texas Agriculture Commissioner.

The lawsuit notes that throughout American history, many white ethnic groups have been subjected to “racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities,” including including the Irish, Italians, Germans, Jews and East Europeans. The lawsuit claims that members of these ethnic groups are clearly characterized as members of a “socially disadvantaged group” and “socially disadvantaged farmers or herders”.

Boyd says comparing this longstanding USDA discrimination against black farmers to historical discrimination and prejudice against other ethnic groups misses the point. “The USDA definition of socially disadvantaged peasant and pastoralist borrowers is narrowly tailored to cover farmers of color as they have been disproportionately affected by the way USDA loan programs have been implemented,” Boyd points out.

The Texas record disputes that there is no percentage of “socially disadvantaged” ancestry to qualify for aid forgiveness. Homer Plessy was one eighth of black, but he was considered black by the Louisiana government and banned from sitting in a railroad car reserved for white passengers in 1896. Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Was recognized as Native American by Harvard Law, however, a recent DNA test shows that any Native American ancestry in his line would have been 6-10 generations ago.

Miller’s ancestry is predominantly white, and predominantly Scottish-Irish. However, he has about 2% of African American ancestry.

The second trial filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin on behalf of five farmers in the Midwestern Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio and South Dakota who have direct loans from the Farm Service Agency or loans guaranteed by USDA. They are also eligible for the ARPA loan forgiveness program, except for the color of their skin.

In Wisconsin, Adam Faust operates a dairy farm with 70 cows and 200 acres of animal feed. In an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, Faust, who is a two-legged amputee, said, “Racism against anyone is wrong. We cannot have a government that chooses or chooses to give which program to be based solely on the color of its skin. “

His attorney, Rick Esenberg, says while the trial commentary was a way to create fairness, past civil rights movements and the Civil War have established that everyone should be treated as individuals despite the color. of their skin.

“This disturbing movement that we now have towards fairness instead of equal opportunity will not end well,” Esenberg said, adding that it would lead to a war against all and against those who seek “racial loot” .

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