A Texas farmer and rancher purported in a class action complaint filed in the Northern District of Texas on Monday against Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s program earmarking farmer COVID-19 pandemic relief and other aid for socially disadvantaged farmers is unconstitutional.
“Equal rights under law is the cornerstone of American constitutional jurisprudence: the principle that all citizens, regardless of status, wealth, race, color, religion, or creed, have the same rights and are entitled to the same standard of justice,” the complaint said.
Miller alleged that the USDA “lurches America dangerously backward” by discriminating against American farmers based on race. He cited that the phrase “socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers” is interpreted by the USDA to include specifically “African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, Asian-Americans, and Pacific Islanders,” but does not include white farmers, purportedly leaving them unable to access the aid through the USDA programs.
The complaint specifically cited the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which includes loan forgiveness for up to 120% of a loan and other aid, to farmers and ranchers who are considered socially disadvantaged under the above definition. Additionally,the plaintiff alleged that “numerous other federal statutes” give aid to only those who meet the USDA’s socially disadvantaged definition including that certain properties should be sold by the Secretary of Agriculture to socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers before being offered publicly and socially disadvantaged farmers should be given preference for grants.
“American citizens today represent a beautiful, complex, and increasingly interwoven fabric of racial backgrounds. Government action that tears at that fabric and divides its pieces—rather than reinforcing that fabric’s unifying and binding ties—disrupts our common progress towards becoming a more perfect union,” Miller claimed in the complaint.
The plaintiff asked the court to enjoin the enforcement of the “racial exclusions” to promote equal rights. Specifically, Miller requested the court give him and a class of other farmers who are not included in the USDA’s interpretation of “socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher” relief by enjoining the defendant from “implementing any racial exclusions or discriminatory racial preferences in Department of Agriculture Programs.”