Pigford: Racism Against Black Farmers or Government Fraud?

jenny erikson
Jenny Erikson
is awful. The discrimination that blacks endured for centuries was deplorable. The slavery, the segregation, and the hate crimes: all bad, bad, bad. A small amount of racial discrimination even exists today, a fact that should sadden the heart of every freedom-loving American. 

In 1996, a small group of black farmers filed claims that they had been discriminated against on the basis of race by the USDA. Then-Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman set in motion Civil Rights Action Teams to look into the matter. They found that 205 of the 116,261 loan and crop payments issued by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency had triggered complaints of racial discrimination.

A farmer named Timothy Pigford filed a claim against the government for reparations. Many more joined the suit, and eventually it became a class-action lawsuit simply referred to as "Pigford."


Due to lots of legalize and governmental restrictions, exemptions, and waivers, the settlement case for these farmers bounced back and forth for years. As publicity for the lawsuit grew, more and more people applied for a payout from the blanket settlement. 

2004 finally saw the last of the reparation payments issued. We’ll never know the exact amount paid out to the thousands of farmers claiming racial discrimination because the judge sealed the documents, but estimates are in the billion-dollar range.

In 2007, then-Senator Obama decided to reopen the case. There had been a deadline for black farmers to file their claims in the original case, and the 70,000 or so people that had missed the cutoff should be allowed to receive a settlement too. 

All said and done, over 94,000 black farmers filed a claim in the Pigford cases. Census data shows that there are only about 33,000 black farmers in the United States. Those numbers reek of fraudulent claims, but instead of investigating the claimants, President Obama announced a plan to “rectify the perceived injustice of excluding those late filers by doling out $1.25 billion to the over 70,000 late applicants who claimed discrimination on the part of the USDA.”

On Wednesday, Obama signed into law H.R. 4783, which provides $1.15 billion in compensation for the plaintiffs in the Pigford II case. Even if every single black farmer in America had been discriminated against (a highly unlikely story in itself), there should not be more than 33,000 claims, yet there were over 94,000. Math can be hard, but it’s not that hard.

The farmers that were actually discriminated against are unhappy at being taken advantage of by their black brothers and sisters. One of them has even blown the whistle that the FBI is aware that the vast majority of the claims filed were fraudulent.

After all this, the President accused Republicans of holding the middle-class taxpayers hostage by not agreeing to raise taxes on the wealthy. Maybe we wouldn’t need additional income from taxpayers if our government didn’t approve scams like the Pigford settlement.

Just a thought. 


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