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PRESS RELEASE: SCOTUS Votes Down HEROES ACT, ensuring greater financial difficulty for young farmer borrowers


Contact:  Jessica Manly, Communications Director
National Young Farmers Coalition, 518-643-3564 x 722

Washington, D.C. (July 12, 2023) The National Young Farmers Coalition (Young Farmers) is disappointed by the June 30, 2023 ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States. By a 6-3 vote, our country’s highest court—tasked with delivering on the promise of equal justice under law—ruled that the Biden Administration did not have the authority under the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students (HEROES) Act of 2003 to continue the debt relief program, to which 26 million applications were made last year. As stated in a previous blog post on debt relief, the Supreme Court could have ensured financial relief and economic possibility for millions of working, low- and middle-income Americans. For a new generation of young and Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) farmers struggling with many layered challenges, this ruling is devastating news. 

The HEROES Act specifically authorized the federal government to provide financial relief to borrowers due to a national emergency. A majority of the justices did not agree that the Act provides a basis to grant principal debt relief for the estimated 40 million borrowers who qualified.

“In a time of great need, the Supreme Court of the United States has spurned student loan borrowers, and firmly placed the court in the way of a common sense, meritorious, and legal policy to provide financial relief”, said Michelle A.T. Hughes, Co-Executive Director for the National Young Farmers Coalition. “Our disappointment in this outcome is paired with gratitude for, and some measured hope, following the President’s subsequent announcement of alternative steps to lessen the pain for borrowers. We see and greatly appreciate the efforts of President Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, who are working diligently and consistently to address the burden of student loan debt—a burden that many farmers in our network continue to carry.”

“Student loan debt is a problem with clear solutions, and the impacts of this debt coupled with the ongoing uncertainty and suddenness of course changes in public policy, are incredibly harmful and entirely preventable,” said Tamisha Singletary, Policy Development Associate for the National Young Farmers Coalition. “Young Farmers will continue to join our partners, such as the Student Borrower Protection Center, in advocating for equitable student loan debt relief.” 

According to our 2022 National Young Farmer Survey of over 10,000 young and beginning farmers across the country, 38% of young farmer respondents carry some student loan debt. Student debt burden is much higher for BIPOC farmers and particularly Black young farmers. 62% of Black young farmers have student loan debt, compared to only 36% of White young farmers. 

Student loan debt is a burden that stands in the way of the next generation of farmers ready to build careers in agriculture. Student debt can prevent farmers from qualifying for additional financing needed to launch their businesses. Twenty percent of young farmers did not take out additional loans to support or grow their farm businesses because of existing student loan debt. 

Addressing the student debt crisis is a matter of growing national concern as our supply chain is widely distributed, and so can be threatened, across the globe. Increasing our young farmers’ capacity to participate in building up our food security and our nation’s ability to sustainably feed ourselves domestically is a top priority for success in every sector.
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