US judge blocks $ 4 billion debt relief program for minority farmers
Reuters reports that a white farmer named Scott Wynn of Jennings, Florida in May challenged US President Joe Biden’s plans as he faced farm loans and financial hardship during the pandemic. He said the debt relief program discriminates against him because of his race.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard blocked $ 4 billion in government assistance to farmers of color on June 23, ruling that the plaintiff had established a “high likelihood” that the policy would violate her right to equal protection under of the law.
Wynn, who is challenging Section 1005 of the American Rescue Plan Act, which provides debt relief to “socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers,” has a good chance of success, Howard said in the ruling filed with the Middle District. Florida Court.
The ruling added that “the rigid, categorical and race-based qualification of section 1005 is the antithesis of flexibility.”
A separate Wisconsin judge also granted a temporary restraining order on June 10 regarding the debt relief plan.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) had planned to start payments to farmers in June.
For decades USDA employees and programs have discriminated against socially disadvantaged farmers by denying loans and delaying payments, resulting in a loss of $ 120 billion in farmland value since 1920, according to an analysis of the ‘Tufts University in 2018.
Black farmers have been promised relief from federal discrimination in the past, only to be disappointed on several occasions, said Lloyd Wright, a Virginia farmer who served as director of the USDA’s Civil Rights Office at the late 1990s and early 2000s.
He suggests that eligible farmers keep paying the loans so they don’t end up late if the program is stalled permanently.