A settled lawsuit intended to pay thousands of dollars to black farmers discriminated against by the federal government is instead being used as a billion-dollar slush fund doling out reparations for slavery.
That’s according to one of the few critics in Congress of the process known as the Pigford settlement.
Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa), told HUMAN EVENTS the settlement is a “legal blunder” that has been corrupted.
“By many accounts, this is being sold as 40 acres and a mule for slavery reparations,” King said.
Taxpayers are already responsible for $1 billion to nearly 16,000 black farmers under the original lawsuit that was filed in 1997 and settled in April 1999.
Now comes another claim known as Pigford II that was settled in February by the Obama Administration.
The Senate is now wrestling to come up with another payoff when they return from the Labor Day holiday, for an additional $1.15 billion.
There are nearly 74,000 black farmers approved to receive that settlement, bringing the total to more than 85,000 black farmers who stand to receive an average of $200,000 that includes debt and tax relief, King said.
One detail that has triggered King’s attention, is the actual number of black farmers in America.
And that depends on whom you ask. And when.
The case was originally filed by Timothy Pigford, a black farmer from North Carolina, against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) claiming black farmers were denied disaster payments or farm loans, and others were forced to wait longer for approval than white farmers.
The Congressional Research Service estimated that settlement payoffs of $50,000 could be paid to as many as 2,000 black farmers.
The Black Farmers Association said as recently as 2007, that there were only 18,000 black farmers in the United States.
Government agencies are more generous in their estimates, but far short of the number of claims that have been approved.
According to the USDA, there were nearly 27,000 farmers operating in 1997 while the suit was ongoing.
The U.S. Census Bureau says there were more than 26,000 farmers operating in 1997 and about 18,000 in 1992.
Going back even farther, the Census says there were less than 23,000 in 1987, and 33,000 in 1982, with a high of 57,000 in 1978.
So how is it that more than 85,000 black “farmers” have been approved to receive a payment?
For starters, King says, the court agreement set “such a low standard of proof of discrimination that it has became almost an automatic award.”
You don’t actually have to prove discrimination occurred, and you don’t have to actually be a farmer, King said.
“The consent decree does not require proof of discrimination. They are being paid because they are black farmers or wanted to be a farmer, who claim they believe they were discriminated against,” King said. “But there are zero requirements in the consent decree that there be verification that discrimination actually took place.”
According to an April 21 report by the Congressional Research Service, eligible recipients are African Americans who “farmed or attempted to farm between January 1981 and Dec. 31, 1996.”
In addition to meeting deadlines, the other key term is that the applicant “applied to USDA for farm credit or program benefits and believes that he or she was discriminated against by the USDA on the basis of race.”
“This puts the USDA in a position of having to prove a negative and that’s the legal blunder,” King said.
“This is where the USDA and attorneys fell on their face and failed the American people, and I think they failed the African American community because this is a stain on everybody,” King said.
Lawyers stand to make more than $12,000 for each “farmer” who applied for a portion of the settlement, and some recruited for applicants in black churches throughout the South, King said.
“That’s the narrative coming to me, they are told ‘This is your 40 acres and a mule, sign up with this gentleman here from Boston in the bow tie,’ which is the lawyer, ‘and they will help you,’” King said.