- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Race hustlers are shaking down taxpayers for payoffs, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is falling for the scam. The controversy involves a discrimination claim against the USDA for allegedly denying loans because of race. A federal judge approved payments of $50,000 or more based on low levels of proof. This encouraged a mad scramble for cash based on false claims.

The “Pigford Settlement,” an agreement that came out of the original 1997 lawsuit by Timothy Pigford and 400 southern black farmers, resulted from some apparently legitimate instances of discrimination. However, plaintiffs’ lawyers got involved, and the number of supposedly aggrieved farmers grew exponentially. Eventually, more than 94,000 claims were filed even though the U.S. Census Bureau never counted more than 33,000 black farmers in America during the years in question.

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.” This push ignored fraud in and several convictions over the original settlement, but Mr. Obama was advised his legislation could help him in a Democratic presidential primary fight against then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. As president, Mr. Obama rammed this new, $4.6 billion boondoggle through Congress during last year’s post-election, lame-duck session.

For months, the liberal Huffington Post and Andrew Breitbart’s libertarian BigGovernment.com have reported growing numbers of Pigford fraud allegations. Numerous black farmers have complained they get short shrift while grifters and lawyers get the loot. In January, these websites posted videos of black farmers saying they brought fraud concerns to Rep. Sanford Bishop, Georgia Democrat, but he advised them to stay quiet “as long as the money was flowing” because otherwise “they’ll shut this thing down.” Three men - including Eddie Slaughter, vice president of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association - agree Mr. Bishop said this in his Columbus, Ga., office.

“Yes, I am aware that there is fraud in the program, that’s why anti-fraud provisions were written into the settlement,” Mr. Bishop stated, according to the Jan. 20 Albany (Ga.) Herald. “It’s not my job to monitor fraud in the program.”

New legislation has USDA’s inspector general conduct audits of disbursements, but it’s not clear why there is a Pigford II when the original settlement was hampered by fraud. The Washington Times tried to get answers about ongoing or future investigations of fraud from Pearlie Reed, USDA assistant secretary for administration, but was given the run-around by department spokesman Justin Dejong. All questionable Pigford payments should be suspended until Congress can conduct a full investigation.