After Last Minute Lawsuit Filed in Texas, Black Farmers Wait to Hear About the Fate of USDA’s Perilous Debt Relief Program


“I don’t think any of us have any illusions about the uphill battle this represents, but it’s important to make sure the stories of these farmers aren’t lost in the discussions. These are real people we’re talking about, and these are real consequences, ”said Brinson.

The April 26 lawsuit is currently pending in the Northern District of Texas. Under this jurisdiction, any party opposing a motion may file a written response within 21 days. The Federation’s lawyers would then have 14 days to file a response. As it stands, any opposing party must file a response to the Federation’s motion to intervene by October 12 no later than November 2, giving the Federation until November 16 to respond. After that, the court could rule at any time. He could also order oral argument before rendering his ruling, Winston & Strawn attorney Chase Cooper said. He believes U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor could render a ruling on the petition in late November or early December.

With USDA’s hands tied to administer the program, Congressional Democrats are attempting to modify the ERFCA, replacing it with an $ 11 billion program that would write off the debt of “at risk” and “risky” farmers. economic difficulty ”, as revealed by a disclosed document earlier this month by Republicans on the House of Commons Agriculture Committee. Broadening the wording of the bill would mean that the new designations would also apply to white farmers who have not suffered the same long-standing discrimination.

While the USDA said it was working with the DOJ to “vigorously defend” Section 1005, the department said the new text could allow the department to reach more underserved creditors.

“The language on debt relief in the reconciliation bill offers improvements to the original text of section 1005 of the US bailout. These new arrangements will provide more robust tools that will enable the USDA to provide advanced resources to underserved borrowers. With the passage of this reconciliation bill, USDA will be able to serve a larger segment of our most vulnerable borrowers, ”said USDA Press Secretary Kate Waters.

If the reconciliation bill is passed, it could replace the measure adopted in March, leaving it to the government. Miller vs. Vilsack complainants and the court to decide whether to drop the lawsuit or declare it moot. But it also raises concerns. Namely, the wording of the measure does not currently apply to USDA guaranteed loans held by third party lenders like Dawson Bank where Batten owes six digits. In other words: it is not clear who would qualify for debt relief.

“We are certainly concerned about farmers and ranchers of color who may or may not be included depending on the criteria for receiving debt relief under the current reconciliation bill, as well as whether secured loans were not taken into account or included at all. Only direct loans from the FSA are even considered for debt relief as part of the reconciliation, while under Article 1005, direct and guaranteed loans were eligible for debt relief, ”he added. Davy said.

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