A federal judge in Tennessee ruled in favor of a Tennessee farmer by placing an injunction on the USDA in its attempt to grant federal loan forgiveness only to non-whites.
The Southeast Legal Fund and the Mountain States Legal Fund have teamed up to represent Union City Farmer Robert Holman as it disputes a provision of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that allows for automatic loan forgiveness of up to 120% of a federal loan to farmers or ranchers who are in a “socially disadvantaged position,” which is defined as “black, American Indian / residents of Alaska. Native, Hispanic or Asian, or Hawaii / Pacific Islander. “
The court order estimated that while there was no limit on the amount of loans that could be made, $ 3.8 billion had been allocated to the program, and without an injunction these funds could disappear pending resolution of the case.
The Wisconsin case issued a temporary restraining order on the USDA loan program, but Thursday’s ruling by US District Judge S. Thomas Anderson created an injunction against USDA, suspending the distribution of funds through the program until the case was resolved.
“The reason that is so important is that the USDA cannot spend all the money and go to court and say that this is now a controversial issue,” said Braden Bouchek, director of litigation at the Southeastern Legal Foundation. “Now the government will have to provide new information to show that it has a legal basis to do this, and this is the only way to fix it.”
Anderson took into account the Wisconsin case in his judgment, along with similar cases against the USDA in Texas and Florida, and the case of Tennessee restaurant owner Antonio Vitolo, owner of Jake’s Bar and Grill in Harriman.
Vitolo also received an injunction associated with an ARPA initiative targeting minority restaurant owners.
“The Biden administration is using justice as a license to punish Americans – farmers here – because of their skin color,” said Kimberly Hermann, general counsel for the Southeastern Legal Foundation. “The court order makes it clear to President Biden that racially exclusive programs, whether on a farm or in a school, are unconstitutional.”
The Anderson ruling stated that Holman had “a significant likelihood of winning,” and therefore the injunction was applied nationwide, as it was shown that Holman “would suffer irreparable harm from being excluded from this program solely on the basis of his race. “
“What needs to be done for the Biden-Harris administration to abide by the Constitution?” asked William E. Trahman, General Counsel of the Mountain States Legal Fund. “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. It’s time to treat all of us like Americans, regardless of our skin color. The pandemic did not discriminate when it harmed farmers and ranchers last year, and the government should not discriminate now. Racial segregation was wrong before, wrong now and will be wrong forever. “
The parties have 14 days to present the proposed timetable to the judge, after which he will set the timetable for the proceedings.
“To end racial discrimination, racial discrimination must end,” Bouchek said.
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Original author: John Styfe, member of The Center Square
Original location: Tennessee farmer wins injunction against USDA in loan forgiveness dispute