Despite a nationwide injunction, USDA officials announce another race-based grant program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a grant opportunity to implement what it calls “racial equity and justice” climate-smart agriculture program for “socially disadvantaged” and “historically underserved” farmers, despite a recent court ruling blocking another of the agency’s race-based programs.

Quick Facts

  • The program is called Conservation Outreach: Racial Equity and Justice Conservation Cooperative Agreements.
  • It awards up to $1 million per applicant to “expand the delivery of conservation assistance to historically underserved farmers and ranchers.”
  • A federal judge already granted an injunction against the U.S. Department of Agriculture for trying to grant loan forgiveness to only so-called non-whites.

The $50 million program, entitled Conservation Outreach: Racial Equity and Justice Conservation Cooperative Agreements, will grant $100,000 to $1 million to farmers for conservation assistance.

“The goal of this outreach,” the summary reads,  

“is for NRCS [Natural Resources Conservation Services] in collaboration with partners to expand the delivery of conservation assistance to historically underserved farmers and ranchers, including socially disadvantaged, limited resource, beginning, tribal and veteran. Proposals should support activities that introduce the concepts of climate-smart agriculture and to assist producers with planning and implementation of conservation practices and principles.”

Socially disadvantaged includes African Americans, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Asians, Hispanics, and Pacific Islanders. The program, which is set to receive $50 million in funding in 2022, will be noncompetitive, meaning rather than the best applicants or the best projects, the USDA will be able to choose whoever they want to receive funding, allowing them to preferentially select racial minorities.

Several courts have already ruled in favor of plaintiffs challenging the Biden administration’s various racial equity loans and programs. As an example, in July, U.S. District Judge S. Thomas Anderson granted an injunction against the USDA’s plan to forgive the loans of only non-whites and applied it across the country, saying that the plaintiff, white farmer Robert Holman, had a “substantial likelihood that he will prevail” and “will suffer the irreparable harm of being excluded from that program solely on the basis of his race.”

Mountain States Legal Foundation General Counsel William E. Trachman said,

“What’s it going to take for the Biden-Harris Administration to comply with the Constitution? Now that their discriminatory farming and ranch debt relief has been enjoined by another court as a violation of the equal protection clause, the writing is on the wall. It’s time to treat all of us like Americans, regardless of our skin color. The pandemic didn’t discriminate when it hurt farmers and ranchers last year, and the government shouldn’t discriminate now. Racial segregation was wrong before, it’s wrong now, and will be wrong forever.”

To combat racism, this nation needs to stop obsessing about race. Government grant programs, funded through taxpayer money, should not be discriminatory based on categories that applicants have no control over.

Look at the criteria for “socially disadvantaged farmer” as defined by the Biden administration: It essentially means non-white. Whites are being denied opportunities for no other reason than that they have the wrong skin color. What does someone’s skin color have to do with whether or not they deserve financial aid to help overcome hardships that were also out of their control?

Farmers who have been hard hit by the pandemic or weather disasters know how best to invest any financial aid they apply for. But these same Americans don’t need grants of their own money that go to so-called climate-smart agriculture, which in everyday language translates to more government control and regulation and, as is so often the case, will ultimately lead to waste and failure.

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