Farmers Argue USDA Cannot Send Notice of Loan Forgiveness Program to Eligible Farmers After Injunction

In response to the United States Department of Agriculture’s filing explaining to the plaintiffs and the court that it is continuing setting up an embattled loan forgiveness program despite it being halted by injunctions in three separate lawsuits, plaintiffs in the Northern District of Texas lawsuit filed a sur-reply claiming that the USDA sending a letter would cause them injury. 

The plaintiffs are a group of white farmers who claimed the loan forgiveness program through Section 1005 of the American Rescue Plan Act was discriminatory because only farmers of minority races, known as “socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers” in the program, are eligible for the aid. At least five lawsuits have been filed in district courts against this program. 

In its filing earlier this week, the USDA argued that the plaintiffs would not be able to claim that the defendant sending letters to those eligible for the program would cause them harm, despite the plaintiffs’ allegations that sending the letters would be unconstitutional. Thus, the USDA said the plaintiffs would not be entitled to expand the relief they requested with the preliminary injunction to also halt the department from continuing its steps to set up the loan forgiveness program. 

In Thursday’s response, the plaintiffs argued that they are harmed by the USDA setting up the program and sending letters to those who are eligible under the current program, because the government organization would be discriminating based on race. They explained that if they had known or expected that the government would seek permission to take these preparatory steps, they would have included claims that they would be harmed by them in previous flings, however, that they sought relief from “all racially discriminatory conduct” which would include the steps the USDA plans to take. 

“Racial discrimination by government officials inflicts injury in fact and irreparable harm per se. That remains true regardless of whether the discriminatory conduct involves the forgiveness of a loan or the mailing of a letter. Article III injury does not in any way turn on the magnitude of the harm,” the filing said. 

The plaintiffs said that under the injunction, the government could participate in some preparatory steps, but that it could not take any steps, such as mailing letters, which discriminate based on race or ethnicity. 

The plaintiffs are represented by Mitchell Law PLLC, America First Legal Foundation, and The Fillmore Law Firm LLP.