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Politics USDA to start loan forgiveness for thousands of farmers of color in June

23:50  21 may  2021
23:50  21 may  2021 Source:   thehill.com

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The Department of Agriculture on Friday announced it would begin distributing loan forgiveness funds to thousands of minority and disadvantaged farmers starting in early June as part of a program established under the American Rescue Plan.

USDA to start loan forgiveness for thousands of farmers of color in June © Getty Images USDA to start loan forgiveness for thousands of farmers of color in June

The fund, which is meant to provide government aid to "socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers," marks a "major civil rights victory," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a USA Today op-ed published Friday.

"For Black and minority farmers, the American Rescue Plan could represent one of the most significant pieces of civil rights legislation in decades," he wrote. "That's because deep within the law is a provision that responds to decades of systemic discrimination perpetrated against farmers and ranchers of color by the U.S. Department of Agriculture."

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  Judge rules DeVos must testify in lawsuit over student loan forgiveness A federal judge ruled that “exceptional circumstances” justify the rare deposition of a former Cabinet secretary. Judge William Alsup rejected the joint effort by DeVos and the Biden administration to prevent her from having to testify in the case. The lawsuit is being brought on behalf of roughly 160,000 borrowers who applied to the Education Department for loan forgiveness, on the grounds that they were defrauded by their for-profit colleges.

The law specifically directs the USDA to pay off the farm loans of nearly 16,000 minority farmers, and Vilsack told The Washington Post Friday that those who will benefit include Black, American Indian, Hispanic, Alaskan Native, Asian American and Pacific Islander farmers.

"Today, after months of planning, USDA begins this historic debt relief program," the secretary wrote in his op-ed.

Vilsack told the Post that farmers "will get a letter that advises them that their debt is in the process of being paid," and eligible farmers and ranchers will receive an additional 20 percent of the loan as a cash payment to compensate for the burden that comes with a large debt relief.

The launch comes after Black farmers had accused the USDA of delaying its start to the program, while white farmers and some lawmakers have criticized it as being discriminatory, and banks have argued it could negatively harm lending institutions.

Tom Vilsack: Why debt relief for Black and minority farmers is major civil rights victory

  Tom Vilsack: Why debt relief for Black and minority farmers is major civil rights victory For Black and minority farmers, the American Rescue Plan could represent one of the most significant pieces of civil rights legislation in decades. That’s because deep within the law is a provision that responds to decades of systemic discrimination perpetrated against farmers and ranchers of color by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. © CHARLIE RIEDEL, AP Teff crop Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

The program is currently facing multiple lawsuits, including from America First Legal (AFL), the legal group started by former President Trump aide Stephen Miller.

AFL argued in its lawsuit filed late last month that the USDA through its fund for disadvantaged farmers and ranchers is "actively and invidiously discriminating against American citizens solely based upon their race."

"White farmers and ranchers are not included within the definition of 'socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers,' making them ineligible for aid under these federal programs," the lawsuit argued.

"These racial exclusions are patently unconstitutional, and the Court should permanently enjoin their enforcement," the AFL added.

In another lawsuit, a group of white Midwestern farmers alleged that they were denied participation in the loan forgiveness program because of their race, arguing that if they were considered eligible, "they would have the opportunity to make additional investments in their property, expand their farms, purchase equipment and supplies, and otherwise support their families and local communities."

Biden's authority to cancel student debt remains to be seen as forbearance comes to close .
Neither the White House nor the Department of Education could provide NBC News with a timeline of the review process, as federal student loan forbearance is set to expire in four months."Hopefully we’ll see that in the next few weeks," Klain said at the time. "And then he'll look at that legal authority, he'll look at the policy issues around that, and then he'll make a decision. He hasn't made a decision on that either way. In fact, he hasn't yet gotten the memos that he needs to start to focus on that decision.

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This is interesting!