Preliminary Injunction Granted In Florida Lawsuit Against USDA Loan Program

Judge Marcia Morales Howard with the Florida Middle District Court granted a preliminary injunction to plaintiff Scott Wynn, stopping the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s loan forgiveness program and agreeing with the plaintiff that it would be discriminatory against white farmers and ranchers. 

The debt program, approved under Section 1005 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, allows for “socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers,” meaning those of minority groups, to access relief for up to 120% of farm loans. Wynn reportedly is a white farmer with qualifying farm loans, but because of his race he cannot get the aid from this program leading him to file the lawsuit alleging the program violates the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. 

In this case, the court ruled against the debt relief program, granting a preliminary injunction halting the program while the lawsuit proceeds. The order explained “it appears that in enacting Section 1005 Congress relies, albeit without any ill intention, on present discrimination to remedy past discrimination.” It cited an instance when the Eleventh Circuit said this was an improper action. 

In a similar lawsuit, the Wisconsin Eastern District Court previously granted a temporary restraining order, temporarily putting a stop to the program earlier this month. Both judges determined that the plaintiffs have a likelihood of success based on their claims and cited similar reasoning. The courts determined that there is not a compelling interest to determine eligibility for aid based on race in this instance. 

These two lawsuits and at least three others, each in a different federal court, are seeking to end the program, which at this point is temporarily stopped by two separate courts. The USDA has defended the program, arguing that it is addressing many years of discrimination in government programs against minority farmers. 

The department cited that the program was initiated by congress, which determined that they were in need of the debt relief.  Addressing attempts for a preliminary injunction, the USDA argued that it would unnecessarily delay payments to farmers who are in need of help. Black and American Indian farmer organizations also argued in favor of the USDA program and asked to intervene in the present lawsuit and others. 

Scott Wynn is represented by Pacific Legal Foundation.