Pigford Fraud Threatens Future Settlements

The recent allegations that the US Department of Agriculture woefully mismanaged settlement money from the Pigford lawsuit may have major ramifications that threaten access to other USDA class action lawsuits and threatens the ability of groups facing discrimination from receiving compensation from the government.
The Pigford cases revolved around allegations of government discrimination through agricultural lending. African American farmers alleged that throughout the 80s and early 90s, many of them were systematically denied access to farm loans by discriminatory USDA loan officers.
At the start of Barack Obama’s first presidential term, Congress authorized more than $1 billion in settlement money, allowing the USDA to distribute funds to wronged farmers.
However, recent investigations suggest that the USDA was less than diligent in determining who qualified for settlement funds. According to reports, the evidentiary barrier to claiming Pigford money was severely low (with handwritten documents and the honor system often sufficing).
While it’s not yet clear how much money was lost to fraud, the news comes as a blow to the USDA, which had showcased the Pigford settlements as proof of their commitment to racial justice) and may hinder future discrimination settlements.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer