Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Pigford pigout takes on new life and many new claimants

Is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s settlement of the Pigford class action suit about to become a 2010 election issue? The case, which started to get national notice in July when it came to light as part of Andrew Breitbart's video clip of Shirley Sherrod addressing the NAACP, is back in the news this week.

The case is about alleged discrimination against black farmers in the administration of certain USDA programs in the Reagan years. The initial settlement dates from the Clinton administration, when it was estimated that two to three thousand potential claims might ensue under Track A, which provided for liquidated damages of $50,000 each. Over 22,000 claims were filed; 13,348 of those claims were actually approved.

Pigford took on new life when the Democrats took over Congress in 2006. A new claim period was established because of allegations that tens of thousands of black farmers did not have the opportunity to file claims during the initial settlement period. The suspected fraud in the settlement claims was big in the blogsphere this July when it came to light that Sherrod and her husband were the largest recipients of federal funds, receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from the federal government for alleged discrimination by the USDA officials, including significant amounts for "pain and suffering."

So far, the actual funding for the second round of Pigford payments has been hung up in the Senate. Earlier this summer, there were stories in local newspapers all across the South about blacks petitioning the Senate for funding of Pigford, including a march on Washington in September if no action had been taken before then. Monday, there was this news from Washington, D.C., where the Senate was urged to pass the appropriation.


Black politicians are quick to say that Pigford is not about reparations. If that is the case, the math needs a bit of explaining. Boyd testified that there are 18,000 black farmers on one hand and then supports billions in payouts in a program that has 94,000 people claiming they were injured? It is to be hoped that as a member of a new Republican majority, Congressman King can look at how the plaintiff's bar and black activists ballooned a small settlement into a billion-dollar boondoggle.

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