loan programs

White farmers sue for government loan forgiveness

Some Midwestern farmers are suing the feds alleging they aren’t eligible for a COVID-19 stimulus loan forgiveness program because they’re white

MADISON, Wis. – A group of Midwestern farmers sued the federal government Thursday alleging they can’t participate in a COVID-19 loan forgiveness program because they’re white.

White farmers are ineligible, which amounts to a violation of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, according to the lawsuit.

“If applicants were eligible for loan forgiveness compensation, 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,” the lawsuit states. “Because the plaintiffs are not even eligible to apply for the program solely on the basis of their race, they were denied the equal protection of the law and therefore suffered prejudice.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a statement saying it was reviewing the lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice, but the USDA planned to continue offering loan forgiveness to “socially disadvantaged” farmers.

Attorneys for the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed suit on behalf of the white farmers in federal court in Green Bay.

The filing seeks a court order prohibiting the USDA from applying racial classifications when determining eligibility for loan modifications and stimulus payments. She also seeks unspecified damages.

Minority farmers have argued for decades that they have been unfairly denied agricultural loans and other government assistance.

The USDA in 1999 and 2010 settled lawsuits brought by black farmers accusing the agency of discriminating against them.

Yet less than 2% of the Trump administration’s direct loans in 2020 went to black farmers. And some black farmers have criticized Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for failing to deal with a backlog of discrimination complaints and failing to hire minorities for top positions.

Civil rights advocates hailed Biden’s stimulus package as a way to finally help farmers of color.

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Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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This story has been corrected to reflect that Vilsack has already been confirmed by the Senate.