- 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.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
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.”