Wyoming rancher Leisl Carpenter has announced that she is suing the Biden Administration and the Department of Agriculture for race discrimination under the US Constitution, in response to a “Rescue Plan” loan forgiveness program that explicitly bars her from participation because she is white.  

Carpenter, a 29-year-old rancher from Laramie, is represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation and the Southeastern Legal Foundation. The suit, Leisl Carpenter v Tom Vilsack and Zach Ducheneaux, was filed Monday in the United States District Court, District of Wyoming. She is seeking to be treated fairly and equally, without respect to her race.

In March 2021, the Biden administration signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, providing $4 billion to forgive loans for “socially disadvantaged” ranchers and farmers. White ranchers are excluded, in violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of Equal Protection under the Fifth Amendment.  

 “Like a lot of farmers and ranchers, our client has struggled to keep her family ranch afloat through all the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic, only to learn that she is ineligible to even apply for Biden’s loan forgiveness program solely due to her race,” said MSLF Associate General Counsel William E. Trachman Tuesday. “Instead of being rescued by Biden’s plan, she’s been excluded and discriminated against for no other reason than the color of her skin.”

 “The blatant discrimination in the American Rescue Plan Act, Section 1005, is ridiculous,” said Carpenter.  The government needs to bring an end to this horrendous practice of racial discrimination immediately and start treating Americans as individuals based on character and individual qualities, not based on the color of their skin.”

 Carpenter’s 2,400-acre Flying Heart Ranch is a family operation located in Wyoming’s Big Laramie Valley. The 500-plus head of cattle she runs, and grass hay sales are the sole source of income for her, her husband, and her 19-month-old son, Casen. Her maternal grandmother’s family originally homesteaded on the land in 1894. Unlike many family ranches, Carpenter’s outfit has been passed down mostly to daughters rather than sons. She’s proud to follow in a long line of women who work the land.  

 To avoid foreclosure and save her family’s ranch when she was 20 years old, Carpenter decided to take out an FSA loan from the federal government.  As was the case with many ranchers, the COVID-19 pandemic added to the financial difficulties Carpenter faces. When the Biden administration passed a $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus bill, it included a loan forgiveness program for ranchers. This might have been just the lifeline the ranch needed, but Carpenter and other white farmers and ranchers would learn that they weren’t eligible. The loan forgiveness program Biden signed into law excluded white ranchers and farmers, dashing the hopes of many in the agricultural community who believed Biden when he called it a “rescue” plan. 

 “Making skin color the basis of a government benefit is not only unconstitutional: it is also morally wrong,” added Trachman. “One simply cannot promote racial justice by perpetuating racial injustice.  The way to end discrimination is to stop discriminating.”


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