Earlier this week, Republican candidate for President Michelle Bachmann criticized settlement payments to black farmers who claimed discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The settlement resulted from a series of lawsuits, known as the Pigford Cases, which originated in the late 1990s. The case alleged that from the 1980s until the 1990s, the USDA discriminated against black farmers who applied for federal farm loans.
Several years ago the lawsuit was settled out of court with African American farmers offered settlement payments. Funding for the settlement payments, however, was held up by Congressional Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats, who worried about how the payouts would be funded.
Republican opposition to the Pigford payments has not declined in recent years. Recently, Michelle Bachmann has claimed the farm payments are a form of fraud. Bachmann and others have claimed that the number of claimants outnumber the number of African Americans on the agricultural census at the time of the initial discrimination claims.
Supporters of the discrimination payments claim that the discrepancy can be explained in a number of ways. Children of the initial plaintiffs, they argue, can and are applying for part of the settlement. In addition, they argue that many claimants were driven out of farming (partially because they were denied needed loans).
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has reiterated his commitment to the Pigford payments and to creating a more diverse American agricultural sector.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer