Updated: July 08, 2021 02:30 PM
Created: July 08, 2021 12:30 PM
On Thursday, the Upper Midwest Law Center has filed a lawsuit in the federal District of Minnesota, seeking to stop a USDA loan forgiveness program, claiming that it discriminates against white farmers.
Plaintiffs named in the suit 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.
Known as Section 1005, initiated by the Biden Administration, the program was created as part of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package that Congress passed back in March. It 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.
The program pays up to 120% of direct or guaranteed farm loan balances for Black, American Indian, Hispanic, Asian American or Pacific Islander farmers.
However, last month, a federal judge temporarily blocked the administration from making loan forgiveness payments, stating the program in fact discriminated against white farmers and ranchers because of their race. At least two federal courts have already agreed that the program is unconstitutional and have issued injunctions against it.
In defending the program, the Biden administration had said that 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, according to the Associated Press.
The lawsuit filed on Thursday states 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 lawsuit also claims 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.
"Our demand is simple: don't discriminate against farmers because of their race. We simply want equal treatment under the law," Nuest, a plaintiff named in the suit, said in a statement.
In April, another group of farmers also filed a lawsuit regarding the program.
KSTP reached out to Bill Walsh of the Upper Midwest Law Center for comment on how this lawsuit differentiates from lawsuits in the past, as well as how it relates to the decision made by the Wisconsin judge earlier this year. He responded with the following:
"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."
To see the full document filed on Thursday, see below or click here if on a mobile device.
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