Judge declines federation’s intervention in Black farmer case

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas has denied a petition by the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund to intervene in the Miller v. Vilsack lawsuit, to challenge the classification of “socially disadvantaged groups” to provide aid to minority farmers by the Agriculture Department and American Rescue Plan.

The federation said in a news release it “is very disappointed” by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’s ruling.

“We are saddened that while the farmers challenging the constitutionality of Section 1005 of the American Rescue Plan Act are given liberal opportunity for their voices and experiences to be uplifted, the court has chosen to silence the voices of our member-farmers who are the most severely impacted by the on-going delayed implementation of the Emergency Debt Relief for Farmers and Ranchers of Color program which Congress passed in an effort to address the gross racial disparities in COVID-19 and farm subsidy benefits from the USDA under the previous administration.”

“Further, this decision prevents our member-farmers from sharing their experiences of the on-going race-based discrimination they face in their interactions with local FSA offices as evidence in this case.”

The federation added, “We remain encouraged that [Agriculture] Secretary [Tom] Vilsack and the entire administration have unwaveringly called for racial equity in agriculture to directly confront the institutionalized system of race-based discrimination and its devastating impacts on farmers and ranchers of color.”

“Black farmers continue to speak for themselves through their federation and stand in solidarity with all farmers of color whose farming operations have borne the disproportionate burden of the legacy of racism in agriculture.”

The federation also said it is “in active discussions with our legal counsel, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, Public Counsel, and Winston-Strawn, to evaluate our next steps. We are also actively advocating for an explicit racial equity lens in any and all agricultural, environmental, and climate legislation so our nation can equitably support all small family farmers and build back better than ever.”

–The Hagstrom Report

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