Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack defended President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief program to assist black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic, Asian, and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander farmers.
“I think there is a very legitimate reason for doing what we are doing,” he said.
Vilsack argued that Biden’s program restricted white farmers from applying for aid to address historic racism in the Department of Agriculture.
“We have reimbursed people in the past for those acts of discrimination, but we’ve never absolutely dealt with the cumulative effect,” he said during the White House press briefing Wednesday.
A group of white farmers is suing the federal government for restricting them from applying for the program based on their race.
“Because plaintiffs are ineligible to even apply for the program solely due to their race, they have been denied the equal protection of the law and therefore suffered harm,” the lawsuit reads.
Vilsack said previous coronavirus relief packages overwhelmingly benefited white farmers.
“[I]t’s pretty clear that white farmers did pretty well under that program because of the way it was structured. It’s structured on size; it’s structured on production,” he said.
Vilsack said he would continue the program and that he expected the Justice Department would defend the legislation in court.
“We’ll obviously have the Department of Justice and others do what they do. But in the meantime, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is going to move forward with that effort,” he said.