Earlier this week, Florida District Judge Marcia Morales Howard issued a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit against the Biden administration. The lawsuit was initiated by a farmer who said a debt relief program to “socially disadvantaged farmers” is discriminatory.
In the $1.9 billion stimulus packaged signed by Biden earlier this year, approximately $4 billion of the plan is designated to assist exclusively farmers of color for debt relief through direct payments up to 120 percent of the farmer’s outstanding debt.
The order by Howard prevents the USDA from distributing the payments directly to farmers enrolled in the program.
According to the Biden administration, a socially disadvantaged farmer is one who has been “subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities.”
The farmer who brought the lawsuit, who happens to be white, has said the program is racially discriminatory because only white farmers are not eligible for debt relief.
There are at least four other lawsuits against the federal government by farmers saying the program is discriminatory and unconstitutional. Notably, a judge in Wisconsin blocked the direct payments to farmers.
Howard wrote that Congress needed to quickly fix “a long, sad history of discrimination” within the program and it must “heed its obligation to do away with governmentally imposed discrimination based on race.”
Pacific Legal Foundation, the group assisting the Florida farmer is his lawsuit against the federal government, said the decision by Howard is a reminder that “government can’t treat people unequally based on immutable characteristics like race.”
“The government can’t allow some people to take part in federal programs while denying others based solely on the color of their skin,” said Wen Fa, an attorney with Pacific Legal. “The courts have rightfully rejected such discrimination in the past and should do so now.”
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