Looking at USDA settlement of discrimination suits
“Unlike the cases brought by African American and Native American farmers, the cases filed by Hispanic and women farmers over a decade ago were not certified as class actions and are still pending in the courts as individual matters. The claims process provides a voluntary alternative to continuing litigation for Hispanic and female farmers and ranchers who want to use it,” the USDA explained.
The USDA and Obama administration’s black reparation effort was the $1.25-billion Pigford II settlement that benefited black farmers who claimed to have been discriminated against when applying for loans from 1981 to 1996 but who had failed to file on time for the original 1999 Pigford settlement through the USDA.
“Criticisms from Republicans and conservative groups ensued after President Obama signed the legislation in December 2010, paving the way for about 80,000 African-American farmers to file claims projected to average about $50,000. Many critics called it an outright raid on the U.S. Treasury that would force taxpayers to subsidize direct payments to Democratic special interests in the farming industry,” wrote Brian Koenig in The New American.com.
“One primary concern was that about 33,000 African-American-owned farms had been in existence at the time of the original Pigford filing, yet a staggering 80,000 claimants had filed for the Pigford II settlement,” Koenig further contended in his version of discrimination settlements.
A farmer, Jimmy Dismuke, a black hog farmer from Arkansas, claims he's seen fraud first-hand in the Pigford process, and the claim has been widely circulated by Republication leaning websites. The fraud claim was first published at Big Government.com, a conservative website.
“Dismuke says he has counted more than 300 fraudulent Pigford claims in Arkansas alone, including a case in which people who kept potted tomato plants claimed to be farmers and got $50,000. He also claims that private lawyers made the rounds in black churches, enticing potential claimants with easy payouts,” Koenig further wrote.
In additional discrimination-related USDA actions, officials from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) have signed two memorandums of understanding (MOU) designed to foster improved access to USDA and BIA programs by tribes and tribal members. The memorandums apply to programs administered by the Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rural Development at USDA, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior (DOI). The MOUs will further improve the important government-to-government relationships and also the services offered between USDA, BIA and the tribal governments and the communities they serve.
"This agreement between USDA and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) will help us increase efficiency, reduce redundancy and improve communications and services between our agencies and the tribes," said Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager. "These improvements will help to spur economic development, strengthen the communities and improve the lives of the people of Indian country," it was announced.
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