In the heart of Arkansas, Abraham Carpenter, a Black farmer, grows fruits and vegetables across 1,500 acres alongside 35 of his family members. The multi-generational farm was started in 1973 by Abraham’s mother, Katie Carpenter, with the planting of just one acre of peas. But this year, heavy rain and floods destroyed hundreds of acres of the family’s crops, including turnips, collards, and watermelon. Before that, COVID-19 and its near shutdown of the economy and food supply chains threatened their livelihood. Carpenter estimates he lost millions during the pandemic.

“It’s been terrible,” he said. “When it comes to farming, anytime you have a difficult year once or twice in a row, that can set you back for many, many years.”

Carpenter owes $200,000 in loans to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA. He’s one of an estimated 17,000 to 20,000 farmers of color that was expecting his debt to be erased when Congress passed the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act in March. It was one of the biggest pieces of legislation for Black farmers ever passed — authorizing $4 billion under the American Rescue Plan to forgive 120 percent of USDA loan debt for farmers of color.

The payments were supposed to be made in June. But since the act passed, at least 13 lawsuits have been filed across the country, claiming reverse discrimination and racism. As a result, three injunctions stopping the payouts have been issued and the money has been in limbo ever since. Now, many legal experts say it’s unlikely the debt relief will be paid out as was originally authorized.

“There is a decent to good chance that the lawsuits will invalidate this debt relief program and prevent it from taking effect,” Eric Berger, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Nebraska, told Grist.

Read the full article about federal relief for Black farmers by Jena Brooker at Grist.