Another day, another Texas Republican politician filing a lawsuit against the federal government. This time around, it’s Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who's accusing the Biden administration of basically discriminating against white farmers.
Miller’s suit focuses on a part of the federal government’s COVID-19 relief plan that provides aid to “socially disadvantaged” ranchers and farmers of color. The way he sees it, the program should do more to include people of all races.
“I don’t want to deny the farmers that are targeted in this, the Black and the historically minority farmers, except that we’re making race a qualification to receive this government help,” Miller said in an interview with far-right outlet Newsmax earlier this week.
"All farmers need the help, we shouldn't be dividing it on race...treat everybody equal, don't segregate us on race" says Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller. @MillerForTexas [with @JohnFBachman on Newsmax TV: https://t.co/VlT7z8v2lm] pic.twitter.com/LV0nld9SAY— Newsmax (@newsmax) April 28, 2021
Miller is suing in his capacity as a private citizen, according to the Austin American-Statesman. He runs a ranch in Erath County, where he also serves as an elder with the Cowboy Church, which according to its website, aims “to reach out to cowboys, cowgirls and others in the western heritage culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
America First Legal, a group started by Donald Trump’s former senior adviser Stephen Miller, is sponsoring the lawsuit. The Texas Tribune reported the organization was founded as a “conservative response” to the American Civil Liberties Union, even though the ACLU is strictly nonpartisan.
On Thursday, a group of white Midwestern farmers also sued the federal government over the program, according to The Associated Press.
Half of the American Rescue Plan’s resources would go to disadvantaged farmers, of which Black farmers make up around 25%, according to The Washington Post. Black farmers have lost 90% of their land over the past century because of never-ending debt cycles and discrimination. From the Post:
Discrimination started a century ago with a series of federal Homestead Acts that offered mainly White settlers deeply subsidized land. Since then, local U.S. Department of Agriculture offices charged with distributing loans have frequently been found to deny Black farmers access to credit and to ignore or delay loan applications. Many Black farmers don’t have clear title to their land, which makes them ineligible for certain USDA loans to purchase livestock or cover the cost of planting, and they have seldom benefited from subsidy payments or trade mitigation compensation — almost all of President Donald Trump’s $28 billion bailout for those affected by the China trade war went to White farmers.
Regardless, Miller insists that all farmers could use a little aid. He told Newsmax he wants the program to be expanded to include everyone.
“All farmers need the help,” Miller said with a chuckle. “We shouldn’t be dividing it on race. And we’ve got white farmers that are racially disadvantaged: We have the Jewish race, I’m Irish, Germans, Italians. And there is a list.”
It's unclear exactly what disadvantaged race Miller thinks Jews, Irish, Germans and Italians belong to, but then Miller hasn’t always appeared to be so sensitive toward issues related to race and ethnicity. The rancher has fielded several accusations of engaging in dog-whistle politics and of making racist posts on social media.
Miller once suggested that the U.S. drop nuclear bombs on certain pockets in the Middle East, for instance. He also compared Syrian refugees to snakes in a 2015 Facebook post, writing: “Can you tell me which of these rattlers won’t bite you?”
Critics have also condemned Miller for making light of lynching.
On a 2018 photo of his then-opponent posing with a Black U.S. senator, the commissioner liked a comment that called for “[getting] a rope.” The next year, Miller himself wrote “get a rope” on a Facebook post bemoaning the fact that a Confederate group had been denied entry to a Veteran’s Day parade.
Miller has insisted the expression is just a nod to a decades-old Pace Picante salsa commercial.
The commissioner has been accused of sexism, too. In 2018, he became a fervent defender of embattled U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was up for confirmation amid credible allegations of sexual misconduct. Days before the 2016 presidential election, Miller also called Hillary Clinton a “c***.”
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