Biden loan relief program for non-white farmers only stopped by judge

The Biden administration was criticized Thursday with another court ruling against its pandemic relief program to pay off federal loans to all non-white farmers.

United States District Court Judge S. Thomas Anderson of the Western District of Tennessee issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the Department of Agriculture from making race-based loan payments under section 1005 of the US $ 1.9 trillion bailout.

“The court finds that the plaintiff has shown a substantial likelihood that he will prevail over his claim that section 1005 violates his right to equal protection under the law,” said the 25-page ruling. “In the absence of action from the Court, socially disadvantaged farmers will obtain debt relief, while the plaintiff will suffer the irreparable harm of being excluded from this program solely on the basis of his race.”

The ruling in favor of fourth-generation farmer Robert Holman of Union City, Tennessee, is the latest legal defeat for the USDA as it seeks to repay up to 120% of qualified federal loans to farmers and ranchers “socially. disadvantaged ”, defined as“ Black, American Indian / Alaska Native, Hispanic or Asian, or Hawaiian / Pacific Islander ”.

So far, white farmers and ranchers challenging the program have beaten 1,000 against the Biden administration.

On July 1, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas issued a preliminary injunction preventing the USDA from implementing the program, a week after U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Morales Howard of the District Central Florida did the same.

These orders were more sweeping than the temporary restraining order issued on June 10 by a Wisconsin federal judge on behalf of 12 white farmers.

Mountain States Legal Foundation General Counsel William E. Trachman, who represents Mr. Holman with the Southeastern Legal Foundation, said “the pandemic did not discriminate when it affected farmers and ranchers. last year, and the government should not be discriminating now. “

“What will it take for the Biden-Harris administration to comply with the Constitution?” Now that their discriminatory farm and ranch debt relief has been ordered by another court as a violation of the equal protection clause, the handwriting is on the wall, ”Mr. Trachman said in a statement.

The USDA argued that race-based debt relief was necessary to offset past discrimination against minority farmers, claiming that nearly all of the $ 9.2 billion in first round of relief new coronaviruses had gone to non-white farmers.

About 95% of all American farmers are white, according to the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture.

Over the past century, black farmers have grown from 14% to 2% of all farmers and lost 80% of their land, a drop due to what the USDA has described as its old discriminatory loan programs, but Justice Anderson said the Biden administration “has presented no evidence of current intentional discrimination.

“Instead, the defendants tried to rely on statistical and anecdotal evidence, even though this type of evidence to show intentional discrimination was rejected by the Sixth Circuit,” he said in his ruling. .

A USDA spokesperson said after last month’s decision in Wisconsin that the administration would continue to fight on behalf of the race-based loan program.

“We respectfully disagree with this temporary order and the USDA will continue to vigorously defend our ability to complete this act of Congress and provide debt relief to socially disadvantaged borrowers,” the statement said. USDA on Wisconsin Public Radio. “When the temporary order is lifted, the USDA will be ready to provide debt relief authorized by Congress.”

Thursday’s decision in Tennessee came the same day the Upper Midwest Law Center sued on behalf of several Minnesota farmers, as KSTP-TV reported in Minneapolis.

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