[Editor’s note: Here is the story we wrote about the Pigford shakedown ten years ago. Congress is only now catching on.]
Seventy-nine Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted last week against an amendment to H.R. 2112–the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2012–that would have blocked the government from paying out additional billions for the Pigford II settlement.
One of them was Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee, who had promised to include in his investigation the whole Pigford matter, which began as a redress of grievances by a handful of black farmers and morphed with the help of President Obama into a redistribution of wealth scheme and back-door reparations.
The original Pigford settlement arose out of a 1997 class-action lawsuit by Timothy Pigford and 400 southern black farmers who had apparently legitimate claims of discrimination against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its allocation of farm loans between 1983 and 1987. At last count, more than 94,000 black farmers had signed up for well north of $1 billion in payments under the settlement.
Based on census data, however, there were only some 33,000 black farmers in existence during the period in question. Based on that number and the number of denied applications, the USDA originally estimated that only 2,000 such claims would be filed. A separate suit filed by 300,000 American Indians claimed they, too, had been cheated out of land royalties dating to 1887.
In 2007, then-Sen. Barack Obama began working to pass legislation providing even more money for a whole new class of claimants via “Pigford II,” which now includes Hispanic and female farmers as well as American Indians. As president, Obama rammed this $4.6 billion monstrosity through last year’s lame-duck session.
Under the original settlement, a federal judge ordered $50,000 payouts to claimants using very low levels of “proof.” As BigGovernment.com reported, the only “proof” required was a form stating the claimant had “attempted” to farm, perhaps planting tomatoes in the backyard, and to have a family member vouch for that assertion.
We don’t know why Rep. Issa is dragging his feet on his promised investigation into Pigford or why he and Tea Party favorite Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., were among the 79 Republicans who voted not to defund Pigford II.