Judge William Griesbach of Wisconsin’s Eastern District issued a temporary order Thursday, preventing the Biden administration from releasing long-awaited funds. The controversial decision could jeopardize the long-awaited and historic debt relief for Black farmers.
With the first payments scheduled to be made to eligible farmers this week, the aid was passed as a part of the fourth round of COVID-19 pandemic assistance. Over 600 agricultural organizations and food producers supported the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act, introduced by Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock.
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The decision to halt the funding comes after a conservative law firm, known for exploiting loopholes in laws to benefit white people, brought forward a lawsuit essentially alleging reverse racism.
At the heart of the lawsuit is the claim that the program meant to uplift Black and other farmers of color violates the white farmers’ right to equal protection under the law.
Basically, the whites got mad they weren’t eligible for the $4 billion debt cancellation. However, if these farmers were to take an introductory history lesson, they would learn about the well-documented fact that white farming businesses have overwhelmingly benefited from USDA programs and financial help. In addition, white farming businesses received almost all the $26 billion of pandemic aid under former President Donald Trump. Only 0.1% of aid went to Black farmers, further widening the inequity gap.
As with many areas of American life, the pandemic exposed long-standing inequities, especially in the agricultural sector. “This once-in-a-century pandemic, and the economic downturn that followed, has revealed and exacerbated long-standing disparities in our government that have left certain communities behind, particularly Black farmers and farmers of color,” said Warnock in a statement in March. “This legislation is a major step toward righting some of these injustices and leveling the playing field for farmers and farming families of color to help them not only recover from the devastation of these crises but give them the tools and assistance to thrive that they’ve long been denied.”