IN Biden administration on Thursday was hit by another court order against his pandemic program to pay federal loans to all non-white farmers.
US District Court Judge S. Thomas Anderson of the Western District of Tennessee issued a preliminary injunction barring the USDA from making payments on a race-based loan under Section 1005 of the $ 1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.
“The court considers that the plaintiff has demonstrated a significant likelihood that he will prevail in his claim that section 1005 violates his right to equal protection under the law,” the 25-page decision reads. “In the absence of court decisions, disadvantaged farmers will receive debt relief, while the plaintiff will suffer irreparable damage from being excluded from this program solely on the basis of his race.”
The decision in favor of fourth-generation farmer Robert Holman of Union City, Tennessee, is the latest litigation for the USDA as it seeks to repay up to 120% of qualified federal loans for “socially disadvantaged” farmers and ranchers. as Black, American Indian / Alaska Native, Hispanic or Asiatic, or Hawaiian / Pacific Islander.
So far, white farmers and ranchers challenging the program have fought back 1,000 against the Biden administration.
On July 1, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in the North District of Texas issued a preliminary injunction barring the U.S. Department of Agriculture from implementing the program, a week after U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Morales Howard in Mid Florida did the same.
These orders were broader than the temporary restraining order issued on June 10 by a federal judge in Wisconsin 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 that “the pandemic did not discriminate when it harmed farmers and ranchers last year, and the government should not pursue discrimination now. “
“What needs to be done for the Biden-Harris administration to abide by the Constitution? Now that their discriminatory farming and ranch cancellation has been ordered by another court as a violation of the equal protection clause, the writing hangs on the wall, ”Mr. Trakhman said in a statement.
– SLF_Liberty (@slf_liberty) July 8, 2021
The USDA argued that race-based debt relief was necessary to offset past discrimination against minority farmers, saying nearly all of the $ 9.2 billion in the first round of coronavirus relief went to farmers of color.
According to the 2017 Agricultural Census, about 95% of all American farmers are white.
Over the past century, the number of black farmers has dropped from 14% to 2% of all farmers and 80% of their land has been lost, a decline caused by what the USDA called it past discriminatory lending programs, but Judge Anderson said the Biden administration “presented no evidence deliberate discrimination at present ”.
“Instead, the defendants tried to rely on statistical and anecdotal evidence, even though this type of evidence of deliberate discrimination was rejected by the Sixth Circuit,” he said in his ruling.
A USDA spokesman said after a decision made last month in Wisconsin that the administration will continue to fight for a race-based loan program.
“We respectfully disagree with this interim order and the USDA will continue to vigorously defend our ability to comply with this congressional act and provide debt relief to vulnerable borrowers,” USDA said in a statement on Wisconsin Public Radio. “When the interim order is lifted, the USDA will be ready to provide the debt relief mandated by Congress.”
The decision on Thursday in Tennessee came the same day the Upper Midwest Law Center sued on behalf of several Minnesota farmers, KSTP-TV reported in Minneapolis.