(The Center Square) — A pair of Wisconsin farmers are part of a new lawsuit challenging President Joe Biden’s race-based program for farm loan forgiveness.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed the suit on behalf of Calumet County farmer Adam Faust and Crawford County farmer Christopher Baird, as well as clients in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Ohio. The suit claims the farm loan forgiveness program included in the American Rescue Plan discriminates because it is only open to farmers of color.
“President Joe Biden’s signature COVID-19 relief legislation signed in March, provides billions of dollars of debt relief to ‘socially disadvantaged’ farmers and ranchers,” WILL said in a statement about the case. “But the law’s definition of ‘socially disadvantaged’ includes explicit racial classifications: farmers and ranchers must be Black or African American, American Indian or Alaskan native, Hispanic or Latino, or Asian American or Pacific Islander. Other farmers — white farmers, for example — are ineligible.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has said the goal of the loan forgiveness program is to overcome “systemic racism.” But WILL President Rick Essenberg said using race to try to end racism is against the law.
“Conditioning benefits from the federal government on the basis of race is unconstitutional,” Esenberg explained. “WILL is committed to ensuring that the current threats to the bedrock principle of equality under the law, something that many generations have worked tirelessly to achieve, are challenged and fought.”
Baird, who raises dairy cows in western Wisconsin, said equality under the law means treating people as individuals.
“We shouldn’t be looking at the color of someone’s skin and saying this person needs more help or less help based on the color of their skin,” Baird said. “That’s just wrong.”
“There should absolutely be no federal dollars going anywhere just based on race,” Faust said. “The economic impact from COVID-19 didn’t hurt any race more than another as far as agriculture goes.”
Faust is also the dairy farmer whose name appears on the lawsuit.
WILL says three other farmers, Jonathan Stevens, a farmer from near Rock Creek, Minnesota; Jay Slaba, a farmer and rancher from northwest South Dakota; and Joseph Schmitz from western Ohio are also plaintiffs in the case.