The Pigford Pig-Out and the Election
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.
Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, also stood with [John Boyd, the president of the National Black Farmers Association] during the news conference to announce they are introducing a standalone bill with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) to fund the $1.15 billion settlement. "We're working together to send this language to the President as quickly as possible because our Black farmers have waited too long," said Sen. Hagan. "We want to ensure Black farmers in our country finally receive the justice they deserve," she said.
Here is what the usual supsect Waters had to say.
"I was pleased to join my friend John Boyd of the National Black Farmers Association, and the many Black farmers and their families and friends...to urge the Senate to fund the $1.15 billion settlement owed to these hard working Americans," said Waters. "I have been working on this issue for almost 15 years, as Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus in the late ‘90s, I worked closely with my CBC colleagues to urge then-Attorney General Janet Reno to waive the statute of limitations so that farmers could redress decades of financial and racial discrimination with the Department of Justice."With support from the Obama Administration and with the funding already passed by the House, Waters said, "we now find ourselves waiting on the Senate, which is using procedure as an excuse to further delay and deny justice to these Black farmers. I firmly believe the Senate should make the Black farmers' settlement a legislative priority, and that they should not recess for mid-term elections until this issue is resolved. I therefore applaud Senator Kay Hagan and some of her colleagues latest efforts to fast track this payment."
Unfortunately, according to this, some Republican Senators appear to be in agreement.
Three Republican Senators, Senator Grassley (R-IA), Senator Graham (R-SC), and Senator Barrasso (R-WY) have introduced or co-sponsored legislation (S.3693 and S.3754) to provide funding of the black farmer settlement. Further, Senator Cochran (R-MS), Senator Wicker (R-MS), and Senator Burr (R-NC) have all been on record as supporting the funding of the black farmer settlement.
There is a growing firestorm over the allegations of massive fraud in the Pigford settlements[.] ... According to sworn testimony by John Boyd, President of the National Black Farmers Association, there are 18,000 black farmers. They could not all have been victims of discrimination. To date, there have been over 94,000 claims made. These numbers speak to massive fraud, meaning that American taxpayers are on the hook for what Pigford judge Paul Friedman called "forty acres and a mule." (Emphasis added.)
It is common practice for Secretaries of Agriculture to sit down with members of the Agriculture Committee. It is uncommon for the topic of conversation to be as urgent and expensive as Pigford, with a price tag of $2.3 billion. Secretary Vilsack has an obligation to the American taxpayers to cooperate with an investigation of Pigford fraud.
The Senate may be poised to pass the Obama administration's request for additional Pigford funding. Pigford payouts must be stopped until Congress and the USDA can conduct a thorough investigation.