Diary

How many more Shirley Sherrods work for the Federal Government?

Here are some articles to give you some background on Shirley Sherrod and the Pigford Class Action Lawsuit.

Shirley Sherrod’s Disappearing Act: Not So Fast

An announcement of Ms. Sherrod’s July 2009 appointment to her USDA position at ruraldevelopment.org gives off quite a few clues:

RDLN Graduate and Board Vice Chair Shirley Sherrod was appointed Georgia Director for Rural Development by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on July 25. Only days earlier, she learned that New Communities, a group she founded with her husband and other families (see below) has won a thirteen million dollar settlement in the minority farmers law suit Pigford vs Vilsack.

What?

The news that follows at the link, which appears to pre-date the announcement of Ms. Sherrod’s appointment, provides further details:

Minority Farm Settlement
Justice Achieved – Congratulations to Shirley and Charles Sherrod!
We have wonderful news regarding the case of New Communities, Inc., the land trust that Shirley and Charles Sherrod established, with other black farm families in the 1960’s. At the time, with holdings of almost 6,000 acres, this was the largest tract of black-owned land in the country.
… Over the years, USDA refused to provide loans for farming or irrigation and would not allow New Communities to restructure its loans. Gradually, the group had to fight just to hold on to the land and finally had to wind down operations.
… The cash (settlement) award acknowledges racial discrimination on the part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the years 1981-85. … New Communities is due to receive approximately $13 million ($8,247,560 for loss of land and $4,241,602 for loss of income; plus $150,000 each to Shirley and Charles for pain and suffering). There may also be an unspecified amount in forgiveness of debt. This is the largest award so far in the minority farmers law suit (Pigford vs Vilsack).

Pigford Class Action Lawsuit

Black Farmers filed the Pigford Class Action Lawsuit in 1997 against the USDA for discrimination in loan practices. Now advocates say the Obama settlement offer is good news, but still not enough money to make up for what it cost.

“One point 25 billion is not enough,” said Shirley Sherrod Georgia Director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. “So now we’re scrambling to see what we are going to do.”

In 2008’s Farm Bill the offer was $100 million. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack says he wants to correct past errors by the USDA and move forward with a new civil rights program.

Obama Giving Black Farmers $1.25B in Reparations

Black farmers – possibly over 70,000 of them – will get cash payments and debt relief from the federal government totaling $1.25 billion, in reparation for alleged racial discrimination suffered under the Department of Agriculture’s loan programs, the Obama Administration has agreed.

Another estimate from a 1990s Harper’s magazine article calculated that reparations would cost $97 trillion – based on 222,505,049 hours of forced labor between 1619 and 1865, plus 6% compounded interest.

Pointing to “the staggering breadth of America’s crime against us,” TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson in his book, “The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks,” argued that “Solutions must be tailored to the scope of the crime in a way that would make the victim whole. In this case, the psychic and economic injury is enormous, multidimensional and long-running. Thus must be America’s restitution to blacks for the damage done.”

According to the reparations mindset, therefore, President Obama’s $1.25 billion for 70,000-plus black farmers is hardly even a beginning.

Farmer Reparations

At issue is almost a billion dollars paid out by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for alleged racial discrimination by local offices administering farm loans under the Farm Service Agency. Dan Glickman, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Agriculture, following public complaints and even a White House demonstration by African American farmers in the 1990’s confessed the USDA’s guilt. He declared in a 1997 publication of the USDA news that local officials had “discriminated against some of the very people we were meant to help.”

What followed was a class action lawsuit (originally named Pigford v. Glickman) and a settlement by the Clinton administration in 1999. The consent decree which ended the lawsuit provided that farmers who had suffered discrimination could come forward to present claims and receive compensation.

However, the seeds of a vast scam were sown: with only a simple affidavit signed by someone who alleged he had applied for a loan or merely that he had “attempted to own or lease farm land,” $50,000 (tax free no less) would be paid out. Upon a slightly greater showing of proof (“a preponderance of the evidence”) even more money could be claimed.

Claimants did not need to prove that they ever actually farmed — or ever applied for a loan, only that they “attempted to farm” explains USDA’s General Counsel Marc Kesselman. Could someone sitting on their couch get money by saying they thought about farming in the 1990’s? Kesselman says that “folks have to sign an affidavit with sufficient detail” to describe how they attempted to farm. Well, people wouldn’t lie, would they?

What happened next was an extraordinary example of fraud on a massive scale. The USDA did its job under the consent decree. It provided notice to potential claimants and took steps to advertise the class settlement. Nearly a half a million dollars was spent to advertise on cable TV and in newspapers, with special attention to African American press.

“One point 25 billion is not enough,” said Shirley Sherrod Georgia Director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. “So now we’re scrambling to see what we are going to do.”

After the initial time period for the settlement ran out in October 1999 the consent decree provided for another period of eleven months whereby claimants upon “extraordinary circumstances” could still file claims. More than 65,000 additional claimants stepped forward to file claim requests. Another 8000 then came forward with their late claims. (So in a universe of 18,500 farmers in 1997, 96,000 individuals managed to make claims.) But there had been a court-imposed deadline. Wasn’t this the end of the road? Not by a long shot.

“One point 25 billion is not enough,” said Shirley Sherrod Georgia Director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. “So now we’re scrambling to see what we are going to do.”

Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) is one of the few legislators who has attempted to question this boondoggle. He terms this a case of “significant fraud.” King contends that at least 75% of the claims are fraudulent, the work of plaintiff’s counsel and activists who spread the word in African American communities that individuals, many of whom had never even farmed, were entitled to these monies. Asked if any of his colleagues seem inclined to rock the boat and challenge this give away, he says bluntly, “No.”

Although the evidence is plain, the fear of being labeled as “insensitive” or “opposing civil rights remedies” has kept most every legislator from stepping forward to challenge the gravy train of cash give away. After all, it’s only your money.

“One point 25 billion is not enough,” said Shirley Sherrod.

Don’t cry for Shirley Sherrod – I am sure even with the poor economic conditions caused by Obamanomics – she probably still has a fare chunk of that $300,000 provided by US Taxpayers.