“In March, when Congress passed its $1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus package, the legislation included a $4 billion loan forgiveness program targeted at Black and other minority farmers. Based on strong evidence that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had perennially discriminated against certain groups, placing them at much higher risk of foreclosure than white farmers, the program offered a one-time emergency payout to alleviate debt for what it called “socially disadvantaged” farmers.
The policy represented a worthy and long-overdue attempt to redress historic and ongoing discrimination by USDA. But now the program is under legal siege.
Over the past few months, white farmers and ranchers have filed about a dozen lawsuits against USDA, alleging that they were victims of racial discrimination because, unlike several minority groups, white people did not automatically qualify for the emergency debt relief. While the lawsuits have been filed in multiple states, a class action has been certified in a case in Texas, where five farmers sued with backing from Stephen Miller, President Donald Trump’s former adviser. To the chagrin of Black and other minority farmers long awaiting relief, several federal courts have issued temporary injunctions blocking payments while these cases are decided.
Now, the Biden administration must decide whether to soldier on in court to defend the program or seek legislative fixes to inoculate it from legal challenges.”
“In the near term, the results of the white farmers’ lawsuits could have a significant impact on farmers of color across the country. In particular, without relief payments that USDA was supposed to begin distributing this summer, some Black-owned farms inevitably will collapse”
“Consider the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act, a $5 billion monstrosity that Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock snuck into the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The bill aims to provide payments to “Black farmers, Indigenous farmers, and farmers of color.” It includes $1 billion to address “systemic racism” at the Department of Agriculture.
The bill never says explicitly that blacks, Native Americans, or farmers who are immigrants from Latin America or their descendants should receive benefits; instead, it uses the term “socially disadvantaged famers.” For example, it instructs the secretary of agriculture to “forgive the obligation of each socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher who is a borrower of a farm loan made by the Secretary to repay the principal and interest outstanding as of the date of enactment of this Act on the farm loan.”
Warnock’s bill explains that “the term ‘socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher’ has the meaning given the term in 19 section 2501(a) of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990.” As that law explains, “The term ‘socially disadvantaged group’ means a group whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities.” Department of Agriculture regulations also “define socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers as belonging to the following groups: American Indians or Alaskan Natives, Asians, Blacks or African Americans, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and women.”
In other words, membership in any of these racial, ethnic, or gender categories automatically entitles a farmer to benefits, “without regard to individual qualities.” As University of Maryland professor George La Noue has written, “social disadvantage is, as a practical matter, established at birth, and cannot be challenged by evidence of a successful life.” These are the makings of a rigid caste system in America.”
“These and other bills in the works create entitlements based on race or ethnicity, not need. If the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, were to turn part of her California estate into farmland, she, too, would get federal money, as could former President Barack Obama, NBA legend Michael Jordan, and Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. It is that absurd.”
“All of this is likely unconstitutional, violating the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, as well Titles VI and VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.”
“Will the courts strike down these laws? Or will they use them to build on the illegitimate new “constitution” of racial preferences? We will see.”
“US farmers have taken a particularly harsh beating this year from a one-two punch of nasty flooding exacerbated by climate change and a trade war with China.”