White farmers sue Biden administration over relief program for minority farmers

NOW: White farmers sue Biden administration over relief program for minority farmers

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A program to help some Wisconsin farmers is at the center of a controversy. A group of white farmers is suing the Biden administration over a COVID-19 relief program which provides loan forgiveness to minority farmers.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Green Bay on April 29. Two of the five farmers suing are from Wisconsin.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 includes $4 billion to a loan forgiveness program for socially disadvantaged farmers, which includes Black, American Indian, Alaskan Native, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American or Pacific Islander farmers or rangers.

In the online explanation of the program, the USDA says previous COVID relief “had significant gaps and disparities in the level of assistance...” to those groups.

But farmers, including Adam Faust of Calumet County, Wisconsin, are suing, saying white farmers shouldn’t be excluded. The conservative law firm the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty is handling the case.

‘’A lot of farmers were impacted by COVID and it didn’t matter what the color of their skin was, the price of milk affects all farmers regardless of race or ethnicity,” said Dan Lennington, deputy counsel with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty.

Lennington says using race to determine who gets the money is unconstitutional.

“Our farmers are not asking for their loans to be forgiven specifically, they want the criteria to be race neutral,” Lennington said.

John Boyd, the founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association, says he’s been lobbying for debt relief for Black farmers for 30 years and the Biden administration is finally listening.

“Under the Trump administration, $29 billion was tolled out, primarily to white farmers and corporate farm, .05-percent went to Black farmers,” Boyd said.

Boyd calls the lawsuit disappointing.

“If Black farmers were treated with dignity and respect, there wouldn’t be a need for measures like this, so help me fix the discrimination that exists,” Boyd said.

In a statement responding to the lawsuit, the USDA said, “We are reviewing the complaint and working with the Department of Justice. During this review, we will continue to implement the debt relief to qualified socially disadvantaged borrowers under the American Rescue Plan Act.”

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