Food First Response to Recent Restraining Order Halting Relief Included in the American Rescue Plan Act

Food First | 06.14.2021

Food First stands with Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, Asian, and Pacific Islander farmers. We, along with many other food and farm justice organizations, protest the unjust issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order preventing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from implementing a section of the American Rescue Plan Act that would provide debt relief for Black and other socially disadvantaged farmers struggling to pay off portions of their loans. 

This restraining order is an undemocratic action attempting to undermine the authority and mandate of both Congress and the USDA to provide for the urgent needs of socially disadvantaged producers. Many small and BIPOC farmers, particularly Black farmers, have been unable to benefit from the previous federal aid packages passed by Congress due to biased and discriminatory practices which the funding in the American Rescue Plan seeks to begin addressing. Delaying this critical relief will only further inflict harm on these struggling farmers, their families, their communities and the American food system overall.

In many instances, Black and other socially disadvantaged farmers serve as a vital link in providing nutritious food to communities that are consistently ignored and underserved by the mainstream American food industry. When BIPOC farmers are at risk, there is a ripple effect that is felt in socially disadvantaged communities all over America. Not only does the judge’s restraining order put Black and other socially disadvantaged farmers at risk but it also has the real potential to adversely impact the food security and well-being of millions who are already underserved and left out of the mainstream US food system.

The portion of the American Rescue Plan under threat was a small, but significant step in the right direction in providing justice to farmers who have long suffered from the United States’ systemic and institutional racism. Many of these farmers found themselves in even worse economic conditions due to both the pandemic and decades of racial discrimination by the USDA.

We both demand the restraining order be lifted immediately and support the USDA in protecting this critical relief aid for struggling farmers of color to ensure that we remain on the path towards justice and equity for all farmers including BIPOC farmers!