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Federal judge blocks aid to minority farmers after lawsuit from Florida farmer

A white farmer argued that he faced loans and financial hardship during the coronavirus pandemic.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Sept. 28, 2011, file photo workers use a tractor to remove plastic from a field of rotting cantaloupe on a farm near Holly, Colo. Thousands of immigrant farmworkers in Colorado will soon have minimum wage, overtime and labor organizing rights under a bill signed into law Friday, June 25, 2021, by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, who also planned to sign into law a measure to create a state fund to help indigent immigrants get legal representation in deportation proceedings. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A federal judge has temporarily halted a portion of President Joe Biden's federal stimulus package which would have forgiven the debts of farmers of color.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard, a Jacksonville judge, sided with a white farmer named Scott Wynn from Jennings, Florida. He had filed a lawsuit in May challenging Biden's plan. 

Wynn argued that he faced loans and financial hardship during the coronavirus pandemic and that the debt relief program discriminated against his race. In her decision, Howard ruled that the policy violated Wynn's right to equal protection.

In Wisconsin, a similar decision was reached by a federal judge. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that U.S. District Judge William Griesbach in Milwaukee issued a temporary restraining order suspending the program.

The $4 billion debt relief package pays up to 120 percent of direct or guaranteed farm loan balances for Black, American Indian, Hispanic, Asian American or Pacific Islander farmers.

For years, Black farmers have faced discrimination from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 1920, USDA reported more than 900,000 Black farmers made up the 6.4 million total farmers who worked in the U.S. A recent survey done by the department in 2017 revealed that the number has dwindled to just 45,508.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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