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Farmers win temporarily in court against Vilsack’s USDAFarmers win temporarily in court against Vilsack’s USDA

Vilsack faces a court battle in Wisconsin over loan forgiveness.

Gary Baise

June 15, 2021

3 Min Read
6-14-21 court battle GettyImages-660493730.jpg

Judge William Griesbach, appointed by George W. Bush, issued a court ruling June 10 in Green Bay, Wisconsin, that a temporary restraining order (TRO) shall be issued against Secretary Vilsack.

The Democrat Congress’ plan to set aside funds for socially disadvantaged farmers “…is unworkable.” Judge Griesbach said, “If the USDA forgave plaintiffs’ loans it would be required to forgive every farmer’s loan, since the only criteria for loan forgiveness is the applicant’s race.”

USDA’s estimate “…that this would increase the cost of the program to $400 billion.”

The judge, however, only entered a TRO…which is generally good for 10 days. Then the judge will rule later this month on the farmer’s motion on a preliminary injunction (PI). This can result in virtually a full-blown trial as to whether to enter a permanent injunction which this judge seems inclined to do.

In fact, Judge Griesbach said, “While universal injunctions are rare, they can be necessary to provide complete relief to plaintiffs, to protect similarly-situated nonparties, and to avoid the chaos and confusion that comes from a patchwork of injunctions.”

The court also laughed off Vilsack’s proposal to set aside additional funds to bribe the present plaintiffs. (And this guy is as lawyer?) Janie Hipp,a real lawyer about to be confirmed as USDA’s new General Counsel can educate the Secretary of Agriculture on what is constitutional and what is unconstitutional. As farmers know, the loan-forgiveness program was intended to provide economic relief to “socially disadvantaged” individuals who already had loans. The court found “Defendants have not established that the loan forgiveness program under Section 1005 is narrowly tailored and furthers compelling government interests.

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The Court concludes that Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that Defendants’ use of race-based criteria in the administration of the program violates their right to equal protection under the law.”

Any first-year law student or farmer could have figured this out after reading the Constitution one time. USDA and its lawyers, according to this judge, failed to adhere to this simple admonition.

The plaintiffs in this case, you may recall, are white farmers and ranchers from 9 states. These farmers and ranchers sought a TRO as opposed to a PI and had it heard on an emergency basis.

The TRO is short in length and is meant to preserve the status quo while there is complete briefing for the motion for a nationwide preliminary injunction to stop USDA and Secretary Vilsack. The Court said, “The essence of a temporary restraining order is its brevity, its ex- parte character, and…its informality.”

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The farmer plaintiffs in this case had to show that without a TRO the farmers would suffer irreputable harm, traditional legal remedies are inadequate and there is a likelihood of the farmers beating Secretary Vilsack and USDA.

None of the other agricultural publications I have read note this small but huge issue. This case is going back to the courts in a few days. The farmers should win. Not only because the loan forgiveness program violates the equal protection guarantee but the Supreme Court has said under the 5th Amendment’s due process claim that “Government policies that classify people by race are presumptively invalid.”

Surely there is some lawyer in the USDA’s Office of General Counsel who took Constitutional Law in law school. I am astounded to read this 10-page decision by Judge Griesbach. It is such a rebuke to USDA and its lack of understanding of the Constitution that all the lawyers in USDA should be forced to take a course on the Constitution of the United States. This country still operates under the Constitution.

The attorneys in the USDA and its political leaders should probably take a course from the local law school on what can be done under the Constitution. Then, courts might not have to instruct the lawyers at USDA and its leaders what the Constitution requires of them.

Source: Gary Baise, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. 

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About the Author(s)

Gary Baise

Ag Lawyer/Blogger, Gary H. Baise

Gary Baise is an Illinois farmer and trial attorney at the law firm Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC. He also serves as outside General Counsel for several national agriculture organizations, including Agricultural Retailers Association and National Sorghum Producers. Baise organized President Trump’s agricultural team of advisers. He was the first Chief of Staff to the first U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. He owns a family farm in Jacksonville, Ill.

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