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Judge issues preliminary injunction against aid program that helps only minority farmers

The suit was lodged by a white Florida farmer who argues the program discriminated against him on the basis of race.

Updated: June 23, 2021 - 10:51pm

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A Sunshine State federal court has issued a preliminary injunction regarding a component of a federal COVID relief package that provides agricultural debt forgiveness for farmers of color.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard stopped loan forgiveness payments and debt relief for disadvantaged farmers nationwide, the Washington Post reported, citing the Middle District Court of Florida decision.

The suit was lodged by a white Florida farmer who argued that the program discriminated against him on the basis of race.

The government program was already temporarily paused because of a restraining order in a case involving a white Wisconsin farmer, according to the Post. 

The judge wrote that in developing the program benefitting farmers on the basis of race, "Congress also must heed its obligation to do away with governmentally imposed discrimination based on race." She noted "it appears that in adopting Section 1005’s strict race-based debt relief remedy Congress moved with great speed to address the history of discrimination, but did not move with great care."

The judge also communicated that the U.S. Agriculture Department could persist in getting ready to supply the debt relief until the program is deemed to be "constitutionally permissible."

"This program is discriminatory because it bases eligibility for loan forgiveness solely on the basis of being a member of a minority group, regardless of your circumstances," said Wen Fa, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation which is the group the filed the Florida suit. "If you’re a White farmer, regardless of your circumstances, you are categorically ineligible."

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