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Farm in Rock County, Wis. Photo: Robert Knopes/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday paused a loan forgiveness program aimed at supporting farmers of color after a group of white Midwestern farmers sued the federal government, alleging discrimination, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Driving the news: The Midwestern farmers claim that the Biden administration's disadvantaged farmers fund is a violation of their constitutional rights.

  • Recipients include farmers who are Black, American Indian or Alaskan native, Hispanic or Latino, and Asian American or Pacific Islander, per the Sentinel.
  • The group of 12 farmers — represented by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty — said that the Biden administration should also allow white farmers to receive payments from the fund.
  • Additionally, the lawsuit says that the federal government "must prove that its discriminatory benefit is narrowly tailored and serves a compelling government interest," per the Sentinel.

What they're saying: "The Court recognized that the federal government’s plan to condition and allocate benefits on the basis of race raises grave constitutional concerns and threatens our clients with irreparable harm," said Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel for WILL, according to the Sentinel.

  • "The Biden administration is radically undermining bedrock principles of equality under the law,” Esenberg said.

The Department of Agriculture said in a statement it "respectfully" disagrees with the judge's decision.

  • "We respectfully disagree with this temporary order and USDA will continue to forcefully defend our ability to carry out this act of Congress and deliver debt relief to socially disadvantaged borrowers," a USDA spokesperson said.
  • "When the temporary order is lifted, USDA will be prepared to provide the debt relief authorized by Congress.”

The big picture: Inequality among farmers is deeply embedded, both in the past and present. Under the Trump administration, o.1% of the COVID-19 relief aid for American farmers went to Black farmers.

Go deeper

Hope King, author of Closer
Sep 1, 2021 - Economy & Business

Extreme weather adds to crop issues

This year’s extreme weather, caused by climate change, is impacting crops to extremes that farmers haven't seen in their lifetimes.

Catch up quick: Prolonged heat waves and droughts have caused this year's corn, soybean, almond, honey, citrus and avocado production to crash and prices to skyrocket.

Updated 30 mins ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

Updated 33 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker