­­Debt Relief for Farmers of Color

­­Debt Relief for Farmers of Color

For decades, Black, Indigenous and farmers of color have experienced racial discrimination from the United States Department of Agriculture. Leaders and members of our client organizations, the National Black Farmers Association and Association of American Indian Farmers, have personally endured discrimination such as: bigotry from USDA staff, supervisory loans that restrict where money can be spent, and exclusion from certain loan programs that white farmers benefitted from. That history of racial discrimination cannot be ignored.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 promised $4 billion in debt relief for farmers and ranchers of color – a first step toward healing deep wounds of those who have been excluded from government resources and disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.  

Lawsuits in 12 states across the country (see below) are accusing USDA of racial discrimination for providing relief to farmers of color. These lawsuits sweep USDA’s history of racial discrimination under the rug in the name of ‘equality,’ claiming that white farmers are being left out. However, treating farmers equally means understanding the history and addressing how farmers of color have faced and continue to face ongoing discrimination. These lawsuits have stalled efforts to roll out the much-needed program, as federal judges have issued a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunctions, preventing USDA from administering relief.

That is why Public Justice is representing the National Black Farmers Association and Association of American Indian Farmers to defend debt relief for farmers of color. Public Justice moved to conditionally intervene in the cases and submitted amicus briefs on behalf of NBFA and AAIF in support of USDA’s right to distribute the relief. These briefs tell the important stories of farmers of color who experienced discrimination from USDA and were counting on the debt relief they were promised. Read the amicus brief and declarations here.

Black, Indigenous, and farmers of color have a long, rich history of working with the land as stewards. But in a system that is built to work against them, they cannot farm or keep their land. USDA’s history of discrimination has harmed families’ livelihoods for decades and erased the contributions of farmers of color to this country. But for as long as farmers of color have been discriminated against, they’ve been fighting for equality. Farmers of color have been demanding debt relief since the 1980’s. Granting it now would just be a step in the right direction.

See the list of cases in which Public Justice is defending debt relief for farmers of color on behalf of NBFA and AAIF:

  1. Miller v. Vilsack, Case No. 4:21-cv-595 (Northern District of Texas)
  2. Faust v. Vilsack, Case No. 21-cv-00548 (Eastern District of Wisconsin)
  3. Wynn v. Vilsack, Case No. 3:21-cv-514 (Middle District of Florida)
  4. Carpenter v. Vilsack, Case No. 21-cv-103-F (District of Wyoming)
  5. Holman v. Vilsack, Case No. 1:21-cv-1085 (Western District of Tennessee)
  6. Morton v. Vilsack, Case No. 3:21-cv-540 (Southern District of Illinois) (formerly Kent v. Vilsack)
  7. McKinney v. Vilsack, Case No. 2:21-cv-212 (Eastern District of Texas)
  8. Joyner v. Vilsack, Case No. 1:21-cv-1089 (Western District of Tennessee)
  9. Dunlap v. Vilsack, Case No. 2:21-cv-942 (District of Oregon)
  10. Rogers v. Vilsack, Case No. 1:21-cv-1779 (District of Colorado)
  11. Tiegs v. Vilsack, Case No. 3:21-cv-147 (District of North Dakota)
  12. Nuest v. Vilsack, Case No. 21-cv-1572 (District of Minnesota)


Selected trial briefs and orders from the 12 cases are below. Briefs are listed first followed by orders.

Trial Briefs

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