Iowans in War of Words Over Black Farmers

Philip Brasher, Des Moines Register, December 2, 2010

Objections that Rep. Steve King and other Republicans have raised to a settlement with black farmers “have kind of a funny smell about them,” Sen. Tom Harkin said today, escalating a war of words among prominent Iowans over the issue.

King, R-Ia., this week called for a congressional investigation into possible fraud in discrimination claims paid to black farmers. The House approved a bill appropriating more than $1 billion for a new round of payments.

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King argues that the eligibility standards in the case are too lax, because claimants don’t have to prove they were discriminated against. {snip} He acknowledged that the issue makes southern Republicans uncomfortable. “They cringe because they don’t want to have to deal with the subject,” he said.

Harkin said there is no evidence that past discrimination claims by black farmers have been riddled with fraud and that the latest settlement has adequate safeguards. {snip}

{snip}

In 2007, blacks operated 31 farms in Iowa out of nearly 93,000 statewide, according to the Agriculture Department.

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