MILWAWKIE (AP) – A federal judge has suspended a loan forgiveness program for colored farmers in response to a lawsuit alleging the program discriminates against white farmers.
US District Judge William Griesbach in Milwaukee issued a temporary restraining order Thursday suspending a program for disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The program pays out up to 120% of direct or guaranteed farm loan balances for Black, American Indian, Hispanic, Asian American, or Pacific Islander. President Joe Biden’s administration created a loan forgiveness program as part of its COVID-19 pandemic relief plan.
Emily Newton, a leading attorney representing the USDA in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to an email Friday asking for comment on the restraining order.
Minority farmers have argued for decades that they have been unfairly denied agricultural loans and other government assistance. Federal agriculture authorities settled lawsuits from black farmers in 1999 and 2010, accusing the agency of discriminating against them.
The conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed a lawsuit in April alleging that white farmers are not eligible for the program, a violation of their constitutional rights. The firm has sued on behalf of 12 farmers in Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Missouri, Iowa, Arkansas, Oregon and Kentucky.