The American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law in March, hinged eligibility for loan forgiveness on the basis of one characteristic: race. It said minority farmers are automatically entitled to a payment of 120 percent of their farm loans; white farmers are excluded, no matter how dire their circumstances. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack proclaimed that the law addresses “systemic discrimination.” In other words, the Department of Agriculture believes that the way to end discrimination is to mandate more of it.
Last week a federal judge in Florida, considering a legal challenge to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) plan brought by farmer Scott Wynn, issued a preliminary injunction to halt the loan forgiveness program, citing serious constitutional concerns.
The reality is that farming is hard work for almost anyone, regardless of race. Wynn, who grows sweet potatoes and corn and raises cattle on his land in northern Florida, carries some $300,000 in federal loan debt for his small farm. He suffered losses because of the pandemic and was eager to apply for support under the loan forgiveness program — until he learned he would be ineligible because of his race.
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