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Case Name Kent v. Vilsack PB-IL-0016
Docket / Court 3:21-cv-540 ( S.D. Ill. )
State/Territory Illinois
Case Type(s) Public Benefits / Government Services
Special Collection Challenges to minority benefits in Biden Administration American Rescue Plan
Case Summary
This case is one of several brought challenging the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) classification of "socially disadvantaged groups."

Three white farmers filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois (East St. Louis) ... read more >
This case is one of several brought challenging the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) classification of "socially disadvantaged groups."

Three white farmers filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois (East St. Louis) on June 7, 2021. The two defendants were the Secretary of Agriculture (who leads the USDA) and the administrator of USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA). Plaintiffs challenged Section 1005 of the ARP which offered farmers loan forgiveness only if they belonged to a "socially disadvantaged group." The USDA, for the purposes of Section 1005, defined "socially disadvantaged group" as African Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Hispanics, Asians, and Pacific Islanders. Plaintiffs asserted that "Section 1005 assumes farmers and ranchers are socially disadvantaged for no other reason than their membership in a racial group" and that other farmers are categorically excluded because they do not belong in this group. Plaintiffs argued that Section 1005 violated the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection and violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Plaintiffs first argued that Section 1005 would not survive the standard of Adarand Constructors Inc. v. Peña, which requires that blanket classifications be narrowly tailored and "intended or designed to remedy specific instances of racial discrimination." Plaintiffs further asserted that because Section 1005 violated equal protection, the USDA’s adherence to it would be an "unlawful agency action" under the APA. Relief sought included declaratory relief; preliminary and permanent injunctive relief enjoining Section 1005's racial classifications; $1 in nominal damages; and attorneys' fees. Plaintiffs were represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a non-profit that defends those "threatened by government overreach and abuse."

Judge J. Phil Gilbert was initially assigned to this case. However, he was recused on June 9, 2021, and Chief Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel was assigned.

The government moved to stay all proceedings pending the resolution of the class action challenges to Section 1005 in Miller v. Vilsack (PB-TX-0017) on July 14, 2021. In Miller, the district court had both preliminarily enjoined the enforcement of Section 1005 and certified two classes of farmers bringing similar claims of discrimination.

Judge Rosenstengel granted what she later described as an administrative stay on July 19, 2021. However, after additional briefing from the parties, on November 10, 2021, she issued an opinion denying the government's request for a stay. In it, she noted several differences between this case and the Miller case, including the fact that Miller challenged the statute under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, while the plaintiff in this case brought constitutional and Administrative Procedures Act challenges and that the plaintiff here requested nominal damages. The judge also scheduled a status conference to discuss how the case would proceed.

This case is ongoing.

Eric Gripp - 08/09/2021
Jonah Hudson-Erdman - 11/11/2021

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Benefit Source
American Rescue Plan (ARP)
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Race discrimination
Public benefits (includes, e.g., in-state tuition, govt. jobs)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Ex Parte Young (Federal) or Bivens
Defendant(s) Farm Service Agency
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Plaintiff Description Three white farmers residing in Illinois.
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 06/07/2021
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Kent v. Vilsack: Race-based COVID-19 farm loan forgiveness denies equal treatment to Illinois farmers
Pacific Legal Foundation
Date: Jun. 7, 2021
(Pacific Legal Foundation)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
S.D. Ill.
PB-IL-0016-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
S.D. Ill.
Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief [ECF# 1]
PB-IL-0016-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D. Ill.
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 26]
PB-IL-0016-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Rosenstengel, Nancy Jo (S.D. Ill.) show/hide docs
PB-IL-0016-0002 | PB-IL-0016-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Fa, Wencong M (California) show/hide docs
PB-IL-0016-0001 | PB-IL-0016-9000
Kieser, Christopher M (California) show/hide docs
PB-IL-0016-0001 | PB-IL-0016-9000
Roper, Glenn Evans (Colorado) show/hide docs
PB-IL-0016-0001 | PB-IL-0016-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Knapp, Michael Fraser (District of Columbia) show/hide docs

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