Farmer Debt Relief Halted

Farmer Debt Relief Halted

Maura Bennett
Maura Bennett

The USDA says it will be ready to resume its 4 billion dollar debt relief for disadvantaged farmers as soon as a temporary injunction is lifted.

A federal judge in Wisconsin ordered USDA to temporarily halt loan debt relief payments to minority farmers in response to a lawsuit filed by white farmers who were not eligible for the same debt relief.

There are at least five federal lawsuits filed against Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to block USDA from paying off loans for minority farmers without also paying off loan debt for white farmers.

Vilsack has addressed the issue in the past and said this program is meant to right a wrong.

Vilsack: “It addresses a disparity between white farmers who received a tremendous amount of relief during the COVID relief situation and socially disadvantaged producers who received, relatively speaking very very little, somewhere between 1 and 5 % of the total amount which was tens of billions of dollars.”

The USDA has until Friday, the 18th to respond to the preliminary injunction.

The lawsuit was filed by a conservative legal group, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty. The Texas Agriculture Commissioner filed a similar lawsuit in Texas At least three other cases also have now been filed against USDA in Florida, Tennessee, and Wyoming.

Under the loan provisions, USDA will pay off loan debt for socially disadvantaged farmers for FSA direct loans, FSA guaranteed loans with private lenders, Commodity Credit Corporation loans, or farm storage facility loans that had a debt balance as of Jan. 1, 2021.

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