Farmers Seek to “Opt Out” of Lawsuit Against USDA Loan Program to Pursue Claims Separately

A group of farmers and ranchers  asked the Northern District of Texas to allow them to “opt out” of the certified classes in a lawsuit contesting a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan program available only to farmers of minority races, or who meet the USDA definition of “socially disadvantaged.” 

The movant farmers, each named plaintiffs in one of the five lawsuits in different federal courts with similar allegations, claimed that they should be able to pursue their claims on their own, being represented by the lawyers they chose. They noted that the federal government has used class certification in the Texas lawsuit “an an excuse” to halt the cases brought by the movants. 

The filing summarizes the cases by saying that the movants claimed “they are excluded from debt relief” under Section 1005 of the American Rescue Plan Act “on the basis of race: specifically, because they are white.” They alleged that this exclusion due to race violates the Administrative Procedure Act and the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. 

If the court does not grant them the ability to opt out of the class, the farmers asked the court to amend the order certifying the class to remove the movants from the order.  They noted that they have asserted different claims and have different interests than the plaintiffs named in the case. 

The farmers alleged that separating their claims “would promote fairness, not cause undue hardship to any party, and uphold Movants’ due process and associational rights.” Although they said that their cases should not be stayed regardless of the ruling of this court, they noted that removal from this class would ensure that they had the rights to bring their own claims. 

The movants are represented by Pacific Legal Foundation

The USDA and many advocacy organizations have argued in favor of the federal loan program that these lawsuits contest.