Skip to comments.Obama Signs Bill Settling Black Farmersí Discrimination Claims Amid Calls for Congressional Probe
Posted on 12/09/2010 5:52:32 AM PST by IbJensen
(CNSNews.com) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed the Claims Settlement Act of 2010, a bill awarding $1.15 billion to African American farmers to settle claims that the U.S. Agriculture Department discriminated against them. This is on top of earlier legislation awarding black farmers $100 million.
The Pigford II legislation also includes $3.4 billion to settle a 14-year lawsuit alleging mismanagement of tribal trust funds by the U.S. Interior Department.
Some members of Congress have called for an investigation of potential fraud in the governments previous payout to the black farmers, and they have expressed doubt that this second settlement is any more legitimate.
At Wednesdays bill signing, President Obama took credit for setting in motion the Pigford II case.
As a senator, he secured $100 million for a second round of payments to African American farmers who missed the filing deadline in the first Pigford case. Combined with the $1.15 billion recently approved by Congress, the total Pigford II settlement was $1.25 billion.
In 1999, a process was established to settle these claims. But the settlement was implemented poorly, and tens of thousands of African American families who filed paperwork after the deadline were denied their chance to make their case, Obama said before signing the bill late Wednesday afternoon.
And thats why, as senator, I introduced legislation to provide these farmers the right to have their claims heard. Thats why Im proud that Democrats and Republicans have come together to lay this case to rest.
The first Pigford case alleged that USDA employees discriminated against African American farmers between 1981 and 1996. As a result of the Clinton-era settlement (Pigford I), the U.S. government paid $1 billion to 15,640 of them.
Pigford II refers to a second round of discrimination claims made since 1999. It is the second settlement made with black farmers, and it involves only black farmers who missed the first deadline.
Three House Republicans, Reps. Steve King of Iowa, Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota and Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, support a congressional investigation into both Pigford settlements.
Rep. King believes the USDAs denial of wrongdoing and inaction in firing anyone for discrimination speaks to the weakness of the case.
Who did they punish? King asked, referring to the USDA. At this point...no one. Its completely outrageous," he told CNSNews.com.
"They admit to no wrong doing; they press the taxpayers and apparently have succeeded in squeezing $2.3 billion out of the taxpayers; but they dont have any blame and theyre not punishing anybody. So, how can Americans who think logically accept that as a rational position. Its baffling to me that just that alone isnt enough to get people up in arms.
While members of Congress and attorneys for the plaintiffs have said there could be as many as 94,000 potential claimants for the $1.25 billion Pigford II settlement, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that from 1981 to 1996, the number of African American farmers peaked at 33,000. http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/obama-wants-125-b-compensate-66000-afric
One plaintiffs' attorney, David J. Frantz, told CNSNews.com the 94,000 number will be narrowed down significantly when the payouts are made. He added that some payments will be made to people who wanted to farm but say they were prevented when the USDA denied them loans for discriminatory reasons. http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/number-african-american-farmers-getting
Obama did not say anything on Wednesday about holding any USDA employees accountable for the alleged discrimination. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told CNSNews.com earlier that holding employees accountable for past discrimination is not a focus of the administration. Moreover, in the settlement agreement, the USDA denies any wrongdoing. http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/vilsack-not-focused-firing-workers-who-d
Here in America, we believe that all of us are equal and that each of us deserves the chance to pursue our own version of happiness, Obama said. Its what led us to become a nation. Its at the heart of who we are as a people, and our history is defined by the struggle to fulfill this ideal, to build a more perfect union, to ensure that all of us, regardless of our race or religion, our color or our creed, are afforded the same rights as Americans, and the fair and equal treatment under the law.
I think all of us understand that we havent always lived up to those ideals, Obama said. When weve fallen short, its been up to ordinary citizens to stand up to inequality and unfairness wherever they find it. Thats how weve made progress. Thats how weve moved forward. And thats why we are here today -- to sign a bill into law that closes a long and unfortunate chapter in our history.
The Pigford II legislation also settles a 14-year lawsuit alleging mismanagement of tribal trust funds by the U.S. Interior Department. Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff, claimed Interior failed to account for tens of billions of dollars that it was supposed to collect on behalf of 300,000 Native Americans.
Although the Native American case has received less attention recently than the black farmers settlement, it made headline in 1999 when U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth found Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin in contempt of court when the Clinton administration failed to produce court-ordered documents.
Elouises argument was simple: The government, as a trustee of Indian funds, should be able to account for how it handles that money, Obama said. And now, after 14 years of litigation, its finally time to address the way that Native Americans were treated by their government. Its finally time to make things right.
Bozo believes in reparations and this is one way to accomplish this.
A list of any recipients will have to be made public. We’ll see who collects.
Every dollar needs to be scrutinized in this scandalous rip-off. “Farming” lettuce in a pot on your patio is not the kind of farming that feeds and clothes America. Shame on the Democrats and BO for this paying-for-votes scheme.
$1 Billion for the Lawyers, and a $100 coupon for the purchase of a mule for the Plaintiffs.......
I’m not sure this is so much “paying for votes” as it is simply de facto reparations. This has been the consistent theme of all of [dingle]Barry’s policies.
40 dollars and a mule would be historically appropriate.
To find a fine mule with the qualities of president Obozo would be very difficult.
mmm mmm mmm Brack Hussein Obama is the man!
But its the RINOs I don't like.. they are informers and moles..
They lick the heels of the BIG crooks.. and lick other things as well..
Back in the late 19th century, the Republicans in Congress were inclined to be generous towards Union veterans of the Civil War. When Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, was President, he vetoed a pension award that had been voted for one man who had not actually served in the Union army but would have done so except that he was injured on the way to signing up.