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White Minnesota farmer sues the state for racial discrimination


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Farmer Lance Nistler says he was denied grant funding because of his race in a new lawsuit.
Luke Sprinkel
January 27, 2024

In a lawsuit filed in federal court, a white Minnesota farmer is suing Gov. Tim Walz and the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) for racial discrimination.

On July 20, 2023, Lance Nistler applied for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s “Down Payment Assistance Grant” program. This program awards qualified farmers with up to $15,000 in grant funding to help them purchase their first farm. Among the requirements, applicants must be Minnesota residents who intend to farm the land they purchase for a minimum of five years and who have never owned a farm before.

However, Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and Democratic majorities in the Minnesota Legislature authorized a new preference system last year which changes how grant funding is awarded under the program.

Passed during the 2023 session, SF 1955 directs MDA to prioritize “emerging farmers” when awarding grant funding for the Down Payment Assistance Grant program.

“Emerging farmers” are defined as farmers, or aspiring farmers, who are “women, veterans, persons with disabilities, American Indian or Alaskan Natives, members of a community of color, young, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or asexual (LGBTQIA+), or urban, and any other emerging farmers as determined by the commissioner.”

According to the lawsuit, SF 1955 “significantly changed how the funds would be awarded. Instead of awarding funds on a first-come, first-serve basis, the bill requires the MDA to prioritize ’emerging farmers.'”

Nistler, a white man, applied to the Down Payment Assistance Grant program after the new preference system was signed into law.

(Snip)

 

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