USDA says it’ll continue to fight to pay off loans for Black farmers despite lawsuit on behalf of white farmers

organic farmers working
  • A federal judge halted a program aimed at forgiving the loans of Black farmers.
  • The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty waged a lawsuit against the program in April.
  • The lawsuit on behalf of white farmers claimed the program was discriminatory.
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The Department of Agriculture promised it would start paying off the loans of Black and other minority farmers this month before a Wisconsin federal judge halted the program on Thursday.

US District Judge William Griesbach issued a temporary restraining order suspending the program because of a lawsuit by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative group based in Milwaukee, who filed the suit on behalf of white farmers who said it was discriminatory towards them, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan signed by President Joe Biden in March set aside $4 billion toward debt relief for socially disadvantaged farmers to pay off burdensome debts. It would pay up to 120% of direct or guaranteed farm loan balances for Black, American Indian, Hispanic, Asian American, or Pacific Islander farmers.

“This is a big deal for us,” John Boyd, Jr., president of the National Black Farmers Association, told CBS MoneyWatch in March. “We see this as a great opportunity to help thousands.”

The program, however, was opposed by 49 Republican senators.

USDA did not respond to Insider’s request for comment at the time of publication but officials told The Washington Post that 17,000 farmers of color qualify for this assistance so far and vowed to defend their efforts in court.

“We respectfully disagree with this temporary order and USDA will continue to forcefully defend our ability to carry out this act of Congress and deliver debt relief to socially disadvantaged borrowers,” Matt Herrick, USDA director of communications, told The Post. “When the temporary order is lifted, USDA will be prepared to provide the debt relief authorized by Congress.”

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Photos show a plague of mice swarming New South Wales, Australia, where they’re eating up farmers’ crops, home appliances, and even each other

australia mouse plague
Mice scurrying around stored grain on a farm near Tottenham, Australia.

  • Large parts of New South Wales state, Australia, are facing a mouse plague.
  • The mice have been eating farmers’ grains and chewing through electrical wires.
  • A local farmers’ group estimates the plague could lose them $775,000 in the upcoming crop season.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Large parts of the state in New South Wales, Australia, are plagued by a swarm of mice that farmers say have been destroying home appliances, spoiling farmers’ crops, and even eating each other.

The state government called the plague “absolutely unprecedented” and warned that it could cause huge economic damage, the Associated Press reported Friday.

ausrtalia mouse plague close up
A close-up of mice among stored grain at a farm near Tottenham on May 19, 2021.

There is a risk that the mice will eat up farmers’ wheat, barley, and canola before it can be harvested, the AP said.

The NSW Farmers Association, a top agricultural group in the state, estimated that the plague could cost farmers a total of 1 billion Australian dollars ($771,000) during the winter crop season, the AP reported. The Southern Hemisphere winter lasts from June to August.

Xavier Martin, the vice president of NSW Farmers, described to ITV News on Wednesday an “explosion in mouse numbers” and said they were eating up crops, and destroying home appliances and telecommunication networks.

“When they run out of food, when they run out of seeds to eat they start cannibalizing, they start eating each other,” he said, according to ITV News.

“Look, even in this house here they ate the hose at the back of the dishwasher, so when the dishwasher ran, it flooded the kitchen.”

australia mouse plague
Mice scurrying around stored grain on a farm near Tottenham on May 19, 2021.

Martin said the mice also “shut down” several telecommunication towers across the southern part of the state, making it hard for people to contact authorities for help.

One family home in Gwabegar, northeastern New South Wales, even burned down after mice chewed through their electrical wires, 9News reported. The state’s fire service is investigating whether the destroyed electrical wires caused the fire.

People also described the mice getting into their homes and clothes.

Another farmer in central New South Wales, Jason Conn, told the AP: “They’re in the roof cavity of your house. If your house is not well sealed, they’re in bed with you. People are getting bitten in bed.”

“It doesn’t relent, that’s for sure.”

australia mouse plague
Farmer Eric Fishpool pulls on a tarpaulin covering stored grain with mice on top on his farm near Tottenham on May 19, 2021.

Martin also told ITV News: “I walk out of the door there now and stand still they’ll climb out the outside of my trousers and inside of my trousers, they’re just running about everywhere.”

Earlier this month, the state government ordered 5,000 liters of Bromadiolone, a poison that can kill mice within 24 hours, according to The Canberra Times. Some farmers told the newspaper it would not be enough to halt the infestation in the entire state.

Steve Henry, an expert on mice, said the creatures would not be heading to major cities like Sydney, The Guardian reported. “Moving is a really dangerous thing for a mouse to do because it puts itself at risk of predation,” he said.

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