This week, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) halting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) direct and guaranteed loan relief payments to socially disadvantaged producers provided by Congress through the American Rescue Plan Act.
This decision further delays the over 17,000 eligible FSA socially disadvantaged producer borrowers, over 8,000 of which are Tribal producers, from the relief they have been waiting on as a result of the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on our producers.
The TRO and legal challenges are an attack not just on the debt relief for our Tribal producers, but an attempt to ignore the history of discrimination and opposition our producers have faced trying to feed our communities for centuries. The IAC, standing with our partners, issued the below joint statement condemning the TRO and supporting USDA’s vigorous defense of the lawsuits.
Our sovereign Tribal Nations and our Tribal producers we never envisioned in the creation of USDA and its programs despite our Tribal lands being taken to build America’s food system. The IAC will continue to fight to ensure our Tribal Nations and producers have equitable access to USDA programs and to protect the existing programs we have advocated for and helped develop for decades. For Immediate Release 6/12/2021 Organizations Deplore Temporary Restraining Order Stopping Relief for Black, Indigenous and People of Color Farmers and Ranchers 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 U.S. 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. Intertribal Agriculture Council Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers Land Loss Prevention Project Rural Coalition Rural Advancement Fund of the National Sharecroppers Fund Alianza Naciónal de Campesinas American Indian Mothers, Inc. Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation Border Agricultural Workers Project Cottage House, Inc. Family Farm Defenders Hempstead Project Heart Latino Farmers of the Southeast Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project Operation Spring Plant National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition National Family Farm Coalition Rural Development Leadership Network World Farmers