Posted on January 30, 2024

White Minnesota Farmer Sues State Over Discriminatory Program

Matthew Vadum, Epoch Times, January 28, 2024

A Minnesota farmer is suing the state over an agricultural grant program that discriminates on the basis of race and sex.

The program, called the Down Payment Assistance Grant Program, provides up to $15,000 in funding to help “emerging” farmers purchase farmland. It is administered by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Rural Finance Authority.

Applicants must be Minnesota residents who have never owned a farm, earn less than $250,000 annually in gross agricultural sales, will farm the land for at least five years, and who will provide most of the labor and management of the farm.

According to the department, to be eligible, applicants must be women, veterans, disabled, American Indian or Alaskan Native, 35 or younger, urban, “members of a community of color,” individuals who are “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or asexual (LGBTQIA+),” or “any other emerging farmers as determined by the commissioner.”

The plaintiff, Lance Nistler of Kelliher, Minnesota, is a white man who wants to purchase 40 acres of farmland in Beltrami County, Minnesota, for growing soybeans, oats, and wheat. He currently works on his relatives’ farm.

He complied with all eligibility requirements when he sought the grant. Out of 176 applicants, Lance was selected ninth in the grant lottery, but he was placed at the end of the list. Unknown to him at the time, the program put a premium on “emerging” farmers—as the department defines them—when awarding funds, regardless of lottery results, according to the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF). The foundation, a Sacramento, California-based national public interest law firm that fights government abuses, is representing Mr. Nistler.

The state prioritizes grants to these emerging farmers, and any funding that remains may be awarded to non-emerging farmer applicants in the order of their lottery placement.


PLF attorney Andrew Quinio weighed in on the case.


“I think what makes this so egregious is the grant was within my client’s reach. {snip} And then, because of the discriminatory criteria that the state implemented, basically rigging the system against him, his application was reshuffled to the back of the line because he’s not an emerging farmer … that is a racial minority, LGBTQ, [or] a woman farmer.”

He said the program, according to media outlets, was created “to address past discrimination,” but applicants “were never asked if they’ve been discriminated against in the past.”


“The state’s just stereotyping people based on their skin color. And so they assume, because Mr. Nistler is a white male, that he’s less deserving of this grant money,” he said.