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  • Rikki Lambert

Excluded farmers sue US government on racial discrimination grounds

A lawsuit against the US government argues traditional Anglo-American origin farmers can't participate in a coronavirus loan forgiveness program because of racial classifications.

A group of midwestern US farmers has sued the federal government alleging they can't participate in a COVID-19 loan forgiveness program because they do not meet the loans program's very specific racial criteria.

The group of plaintiffs includes farmers from the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota and Ohio.

According to the lawsuit, US President Joe Biden's COVID-19 stimulus plan provides $US4 billion ($A5.1 billion) to forgive loans for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers who are African-American, American Indian, Hispanic, Alaskan indigenous, Asian American or Pacific Islander.

Other farmers such as those with Anglospheric origins aren't eligible, amounting to a violation of the plaintiffs' constitutional rights, the lawsuit contends, stating:

"Were plaintiffs eligible for the loan forgiveness benefit, they would have the opportunity to make additional investments in their property, expand their farms, purchase equipment and supplies, and otherwise support their families and local communities.
"Because plaintiffs are ineligible to even apply for the program solely due to their race, they have been denied the equal protection of the law and therefore suffered harm."

The US Department of Agriculture issued a statement saying the department was reviewing the lawsuit with the US Department of Justice but the agency plans to continue to offer loan forgiveness to "socially disadvantaged" farmers.

Lawyers for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed the action on the plaintiff farmers' behalf in a federal court in Green Bay.

The filing seeks a court order prohibiting the USDA from applying racial classifications when determining eligibility for loan modifications and payments under the stimulus plan.

The lawsuit also seeks unspecified damages.

-- with AAP


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