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Upper Midwest Law Center, White Farmers Push Back Against USDA Loan Forgiveness Program, Claiming Discrimination

— July 8, 2021

The Upper Midwest Law Center is suing the Biden Administration to stop a new USDA loan forgiveness program that discriminates against white farmers.

Earlier this week, the Upper Midwest Law Center filed a lawsuit in hopes of stopping a USDA loan forgiveness program, claiming it discriminates against white farmers. The suit was filed in the federal District of Minnesota. The plaintiffs include Steve Nuest, Kaylyn Dalsted, Chad Walter, Kevin Vetsch, Lynelle Vetsch, Johnathan Quamme, Samantha Quamme, Nuest Farms, Inc. d/b/a Nuest Partnership, and Walter Brothers Family Farms, LLC. 

Former Vice President and current President Joe Biden on the campaign trail in 2019. Image via Flickr/user:Gage Skidmore. (CCA-BY-2.0).

The program is known as Section 1005. It was initiated by the Biden Administration as part of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package that was passed by Congress in March. The program was intended to “provide debt relief to socially disadvantaged farmers — defined by the government as those who are Black, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander.” White farmers are excluded. As part of the program, Black, American Indian, Hispanic, Asian American or Pacific Islander farmers will have up to 120% of their farm loans paid.

The program hit a wall, though, when U.S. District Judge William Griesbach in Milwaukee “temporarily blocked the administration from making loan forgiveness payments, stating the program, in fact, discriminated against white farmers and ranchers because of their race.” So far, two other federal courts have agreed that the program is indeed discriminatory toward white farmers and deemed the program unconstitutional. They have also issued injunctions against the program.

The Biden administration is pushing back, though, and said the “government had a compelling interest in remedying a well-documented history of discrimination against minority farmers in Department of Agriculture loan and other programs and in preventing public funds from being allocated in a way that perpetuates the effects of discrimination.” The administration did little to address the concerns of the white farmers who would be discriminated against because of their skin color of the program is allowed to proceed. 

As part of the suit, the plaintiffs note that the “Supreme Court’s past decisions are clear that the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” The suit also argues that “ because the loan forgiveness program discriminates based on race, it violates the plaintiff’s rights under the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Nuest, one of the plaintiffs, said:

“Our demand is simple: don’t discriminate against farmers because of their race. We simply want equal treatment under the law.”

When asked about the court’s decision to temporarily block the program, Bill Walsh of the Upper Midwest Law Center said:

“The Wisconsin decision is only a temporary halt, subject to further court review. The only way to assure a final determination against this program is for multiple cases to be filed in several Appeals Court Circuits and get to SCOTUS for a final decision.”


White farmers file lawsuit, claiming Biden’s loan forgiveness program discriminates against them

Judge pauses loan forgiveness program for farmers of color

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