A group of farmers from the Midwest have filed suit against the Biden administration after they were allegedly blocked from taking part in a loan forgiveness program because they are white.
The suit is in response to a Biden administration COVID-19 relief package that provides $4 billion to forgive loans for “socially disadvantaged” farmers who are black, Native American, Alaskan native, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, or Asian American, the Associated Press reported, referencing the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs claim that because white farmers are deemed ineligible, that is a violation of the Constitution’s equal protection clauses.
“Were plaintiffs eligible for the loan forgiveness benefit, they would have the opportunity to make additional investments in their property, expand their farms, purchase equipment and supplies, and otherwise support their families and local communities,” says the suit.
“Because plaintiffs are ineligible to even apply for the program solely due to their race, they have been denied the equal protection of the law and therefore suffered harm,” it adds.
The suit was filed by attorneys with the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty in federal court in Green Bay, Wis. The suit asks the court to prohibit the Department of Agriculture from applying racial standards when determining who is eligible to receive loan forgiveness.
On Thursday, the Department of Agriculture said in a press release that officials were reviewing the lawsuit, but in the meantime would continue to only offer loan forgiveness to disadvantaged farmers of color.
“For decades, systemic racism has created barriers to opportunities for many. Cycles of debt and lack of access to programming have left marginalized communities in the agriculture space at a deficit,” the agency said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated these longstanding challenges in the communities where Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander, and other socially disadvantaged producers live and farm. USDA is committed to creating a department that provides access to opportunity for all Americans, and to addressing cumulative, systemic barriers for socially disadvantaged farmers,” the press release added.
“USDA has taken important steps toward enacting these debt relief provisions, including contacting lenders, distributing resources on loan forgiveness, and collecting data on eligible borrowers. More information is forthcoming on debt payments,” it said.
In addition to the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty lawsuit, a new legal organization founded by former top Trump immigration policy adviser Stephen Miller is also filing suit against the Biden administration for discriminating against white farmers.
That suit alleges that the administration is “actively and invidiously discriminating against American citizens solely based upon their race.”
The lawsuit was filed by America First Legal on behalf of Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and other plaintiffs.
“America First Legal opposes discrimination in all forms,” Miller said in a statement. “We hold fast to the immortal words of Martin Luther King Jr. that Americans ‘should not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.'”
“MLK’s vision is fundamental to our democracy, in which all citizens are equal both in front of the law and in the eyes of their Creator,” he continued. “For this reason, AFL is filing a lawsuit today against the Biden Administration to prevent it from administering programs created under the American Rescue Plan Act that discriminate against American farmers and ranchers based upon the basis of race.”
Miller went on to quote Chief Justice John Roberts, who said in a 2007 ruling: “[T]he way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
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