Judge Halts USDA Debt Relief Plan

A Wisconsin federal judge ordered the USDA to at least temporarily stop $4 billion in loan debt relief payments intended for minority farmers. DTN says the move is in response to a lawsuit filed by white farmers who are not eligible for the same debt relief funds. That’s just one of five federal lawsuits filed against Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack to block USDA from paying off loans for minority farmers without also doing the same for white farmers. The temporary restraining order late last week keeps USDA from paying out any money to minority farmers while the U.S. District Court in eastern Wisconsin considers a more extensive preliminary injunction request filed by attorneys for 12 white farmers from nine states. An attorney for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty says, “the Court recognized that the federal government’s plan to allocate benefits based on race raises grave constitutional concerns and threatens our clients with irreparable harm.” A spokesman for USDA says the department disagrees with the judge’s decision but did confirm that the debt-relief program is on hold for now.

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