US farming organizations speak out against temporary order stopping relief for minority farmers

Farming groups across the United States have issued a statement deploring a temporary restraining order that stops indigenous and minority ethnicity farmers from claiming relief under Section 1005 of the American Rescue Plan Act.
calendar icon 16 June 2021
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On 12 June 2021, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) became a signatory and supporter of a joint press release issued by the Rural Coalition, Intertribal Agriculture Council, and other strategic partners in reaction to a Temporary Restraining Order issued last week to prevent the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) from implementing Section 1005 of the American Rescue Plan Act, to assist black, indigenous and person of color (BIPOC) farmers and ranchers in paying off their Farm Service Agency direct or guaranteed loans.

The full statement reads:

“We, the undersigned, are organizations whose service constituency is composed of Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, and Asian, and Pacific Islander family farmers. With our allied farm and environmental organizational signatories, we jointly deplore the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order to prevent the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) from implementing Section 1005 of the American Rescue Plan Act, to assist BIPOC farmers in paying off their Farm Service Agency direct or guaranteed loans.

The underlying case, and related cases, reflect a flagrant attempt to overturn an act of Congress and the over 30 years of history of a definition that acknowledges and enables USDA to meet the urgent and particular needs of socially disadvantaged producers. During this pandemic, our producers have been unable to access the level of support and service provided to other groups of farmers and ranchers and will be further harmed by this relief being delayed.

We see these lawsuits as undemocratic actions designed only to frustrate and defeat the justice long denied to BIPOC farmers and ranchers and their communities. Many of the undersigned have worked for decades to assist tens of thousands of producers who have endured decades of disparate and discriminatory treatment by the USDA with huge barriers to relief–situations that continue today. This includes establishing a definition and provisions providing targeted USDA program resources in credit, conservation, marketing, cooperative development and other services for these socially disadvantaged farmer applicants–all which have been included, without legal challenge, in Farm Bills over the past 30 plus years.

Congress took into account this sad and sordid history when it consciously added Sections 1005 and 1006 of the American Rescue Plan. These sections targeted assistance to help BIPOC farmers to recover from more than a year of calamitous and disruptive conditions in producing and marketing of agricultural products.

No serious observer of USDA’s role in American agriculture can doubt that the Department has engaged in decades of intentional, and systematic, discrimination based on race and ethnicity. The results have been catastrophic and have completely reshaped farming by eliminating a wide swath of farmers. If ever there was a constitutional basis for taking race into account when making policy this is it. In its decision the Court appears oblivious to this history, and hostile to efforts to achieve true racial justice.

We urge and support USDA to continue its vigorous defense of this critical relief and to assure the TRO does not prevent USDA from continuing to implement the eligibility and application process for this loan payment assistance, pending a favorable decision against a permanent injunction on this critically needed assistance for BIPOC farmers.

Our organizations further pledge to work to assure the intent of Congress is fulfilled and the rights of our producers are not extinguished.

We urge all other farmers and people of good will to educate themselves about this basic, fundamental, and continuing struggle for justice and equity by BIPOC farmers and their communities.”

Find the full list of signatories here.

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