Judge Blocks Disaster Program Special Funding to Minority Farmers

A Texas federal judge has temporarily blocked a USDA disaster relief program from giving preferential funding to women and minority farmers. The judge sided with a group of plaintiffs who claimed the program illegally discriminates against white male farmers.

The judge’s order ruled the program likely violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to equal protection under the law. Agriculture Dive says he halted the USDA from making payments or providing additional relief to people based on its “socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher” designation until a resolution has been reached. The ruling follows a lawsuit from Texas farmers who claimed they would have received more funding under disaster and pandemic relief programs had they been another race or gender.

Critics say the ruling is a step backward following decades of systemic racism and policies that largely benefited white farmers. USDA says the program reflects the Farm Service Agency’s interest in remedying past discrimination.