|Farm loan ripoff?
Washington Times, by Reed Irvine
"How would you like to get $50,000 tax-free from Uncle Sam
by just writing a letter and getting a friend to attest to your claim that you had applied
to the Department of Agriculture for a farm loan and had been turned down because of your
race? Impossible, you say? Not if you were black and had joined in a class-action lawsuit
known as Pigford vs. Glickman (Dan Glickman, the last Clinton secretary of Agriculture).
"On Jan. 17, as the Clinton
era was coming to an end, the Department of Agriculture Web site showed that 12,000 blacks
who had joined the lawsuit had qualified to receive $50,000 tax-free. They claimed that
they had applied for a government farm loan between Jan. 1, 1981, and Dec. 31, 1996, and
had been turned down because of race. They didn't have to submit any proof. All they
needed was one person, not a family member, who would attest to the validity of their
claim. Since the Agriculture Department did not keep records of rejected loans for more
than three years, it had no documentation to verify or disprove claims of loan
applications made before 1996.
"A costly Agriculture
Department advertising campaign resulted in 20,000 blacks joining the suit. That
exceeded the total number of black farmers in the country.
"...the cost for each
successful [black] claimant was higher. In addition to being paid $50,000 tax-free,
any balance due on their loans was forgiven.
"The department had records on
less than 10 percent of the successful claimants. There is no way of knowing how many of
the others ever had any contact with the department, but they all get their $50,000
checks. Much of the blame for this fiasco lies with Judge Friedman, a Clinton
appointee, and with Mr. Glickman, who did not defend his employees from unfair charges of
"The General Accounting Office
is looking into the matter, asking why so many people who collected $50,000 appear to have
no connection with agriculture.
"If unchecked, this rip-off
could expand and spread to other groups, costing the taxpayers billions of dollars. In
October, three Hispanics claiming to represent 20,000 Hispanic farmers filed a suit very
similar to Pigford vs. Glickman. A group of American Indians has filed a similar suit,
seeking a million dollars each. Just before the statute-of-limitations waiver expired, a
group of Asian-Americans and a group of women filed similar suits.
"Even a mainly white group has
filed a suit on behalf of non-black farmers. The Justice Department is very serious about
fighting that one."
(Excerpted from the Washington Times commentary
by Reed Irvine 03/06/01. Mr. Irvine is chairman of Accuracy in Media.)
(USDA) Too Few Women, Minorities on
Florida Tomato Panel!!! (09/10/99)
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture has refused to accept the current nominations to
the Florida Tomato Committee, citing concerns about the lack of diversity among nominees.
USDA's quota-enforcer Kathleen Merrigan bluntly told the growers: "I am
concerned about the committee's lack of significant effort and commitment to increase
participation of women, minorities and persons with disabilities in the nomination
process. There is no apparent increase in committee diversity among this year's
Merrigan's heavy-handed letter pointedly did NOT mention any concern whatsoever that
white, male nominees' civil rights be protected in the USDA's push for more of the
"right colors" on the tomato committee.
The Naples Daily News reports that "Since the United States opened its markets to
other countries through a host of international trade agreements during this decade, more
than half of Florida's tomato growers have gone out of business as a result of new
competition, said Martha Roberts, deputy commissioner of agriculture for food and safety
"Many of those failed growers have been minorities and women, she said, naming off
the top of her head at least one black grower and two women who went bankrupt in the past
eight years. There were more than 800 tomato growers in the state at the beginning of the
decade." There are fewer than 100 "minority and/or women" tomato
growers remaining in Florida, a very small pool of applicants. (Based on Naples
Daily News 09/10/99 by Jennifer Maddox and Laura Layden)
|Related / Similar:
Attack of the Tomato Killers
(09/12/99 - no link)
"The weather was good, the setting was beautiful, but all was not well in the land of
the tomato growers. The government was not happy. On September 8, the 24th
annual Joint Tomato Conference opened at the Naples, FL, Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Peter
Harllee, Jr., Chairman of the Florida Tomato Committee, had just received a letter from an
administrator with the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service scolding the committee for
its lack of diversity. The Committee advises the USDA on tomato policy and
federal regulations in Florida, and makes recommendations on tomato marketing and packing.
"'I am concerned about the committee's lack of significant effort and commitment to
increase participation of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in the
nomination process,' wrote Kathleen Merrigan, a USDA diversity enforcer. 'I
will ask the committee to conduct new nominations for my consideration. Current
committee members will continue to serve until I appoint the new committee,' her letter
"According to industry representatives, the problem -- if there is one -- is like
getting blood from a turnip (or a tomato). The committee isn't 'diverse', because
the tomato-growing industry isn't diverse.
"'I just don't know of any women or minorities in the [tomato] business,' says Wayne
Hawkins, manager of the Committee and executive vice president of the Florida Tomato
Growers Exchange. 'If there is a minority tomato grower in Florida, I don't know of
any. They don't exist and she [Kathleen Merrigan, USDA diversity enforcer] won't
"Nevertheless, the Committee launched a comprehensive campaign to publicize the
nominations. Hawkins was shocked by Merrigan's charge that the committee didn't put
forth a 'significant effort' to attract minorities, women and persons with
disabilities. He says that the Florida Committee conducted extensive outreach in
order to diversify the nominees.
"'We did everything we possibly could to meet their (USDA's) requirements', argues
Hawkins. 'We contacted every known tomato grower, every packing house, every county
extension director, and many newspapers. Several newspapers even wrote articles
about our search. This is government harassment'.
"If it is harassment, Hawkins can take some solace in the fact that the Florida
Tomato Committee hasn't been singled out by the USDA or the Clinton Administration.
"'Let's just say it's an across-the-board effort,' says [USDA diversity enforcer]
Merrigan. 'This is the last opportunity in this [Clinton] administration to make
appointments. [The USDA is] just following through on this administration's pledge
[to impose racial quotas and] diversity'.
"Several USDA committees have already received rejection letters from [USDA
quota-enforcer] Merrigan and, she declares, many more letters are going out. 'From
soybeans to beef, to onions in south Texas. The winter pear control commission in
Yakima, WA, is going to get one [of our diversity letters]. We're
ratcheting it up everywhere'.
"Even California, the state with the most racially and ethnically diverse
population in the U.S., has a small minority tomato-growing contingent. 'About 12
percent of fresh tomato growers in California are Hispanic, and about 4 percent are
Asian', according to Don Dressler, of the Western Growers Association, a trade association
representing the fresh produce industry in California and Arizona. 'We have a very
small black grower population in California agriculture, and the tomato industry'.
"Meanwhile, [USDA quota-enforcer] Merrigan has demanded a detailed outreach plan [to
increase the number of the right races and genders] from the Committee before she will
approve the new nominees. 'If this is our last opportunity to make appointments,
when do you stop saying 'please' and start saying, 'you must'?' Merrigan says
she is not necessarily opposed to taking another look at the Florida data. 'If
Florida can document that there is absolutely no way to achieve diversity [racial
quotas], well [then] we'll scrutinize it very carefully to see if it matches our data.'
"Wonderful. Your government at work." (The Weekly Standard - October 18,
1999 by Stephen Hayes. Mr. Hayes is a writer in Washington, DC.)
[link: NO LINK]
(USDA) Lawyers For Black Workers To Meet With USDA
(05/07/99 - dead link)
WASHINGTON "Top officials at the U.S. Agriculture Department have called a
meeting for Friday with lawyers representing 12,000 black employees, a move attorneys hope
is a sign the USDA wants to settle a discrimination case.
"The employees allege that they have faced constant discrimination in hiring,
promotions and in day-to-day life at the department and have threatened to file a formal
class-action lawsuit. "We're hoping that this will initiate some kind of
resolution,'' Kamala Vasagam, one of the attorneys for the employees, told Reuters
"Vasagam said if an agreement is not reached, lawyers are prepared to file a formal
class-action complaint against the department next week to broaden an existing complaint
to cover black employees department-wide.
"As of September 1998, 11,513 blacks worked at the USDA, more than 10 percent of the
agency's work force. The department is one of the largest federal employers. The
employees "are primed and ready to go and ready to take on the department at large,''
Vasagam said." (Reuters via FoxNews 05/07/99)
Workers Say USDA Discriminated (05/15/99)
"Lawyers have filed a class-action complaint against the U.S. Agriculture Department
on behalf of nearly 12,000 black workers, saying that the USDA has wrongly tolerated
racism and destroyed careers. Employees say they were passed over for jobs, promotions and
raises, and were the target of racial slurs by co-workers and managers. The complaint
seeks an unspecified amount of back pay as well as promotions and financial damages. It
also demands that the USDA adopt stricter policies against discrimination. Agriculture
Secretary Dan Glickman has acknowledged that discrimination has been a problem at the
department in the past and vowed to correct the problem." (LA Times, from wire
(USDA) US Settlement For Black Farmers Jumps Final Hurdle
(04/14/99 - dead link)
WASHINGTON "A federal judge Wednesday approved a $2 billion settlement between
the U.S. Agriculture Department and black farmers, calling it a fair way to end decades of
discrimination in farm loans and aid. Under the settlement, each farmer will receive
a tax-free cash payment of about $50,000 and erase debts to the USDA. On average, farmers
involved in the case owe $75,000 to $100,000.
"But the pact disappointed some farmers, who said it did not go far enough to
compensate them for shoddy treatment over several generations. "The court has
before it a proposed settlement of a class action lawsuit that will not undo all that has
been done,'' U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman said in his ruling.
"Despite that fact, however, the court finds that the settlement is a fair resolution
of the claims brought in this case and a good first step toward assuring that the kind of
discrimination that has been visited on African American farmers since Reconstruction will
not continue,'' he wrote. (Based on FoxNews 04/14/99)
(USDA) Black Ag Dept. Managers Pursue Discrimination Complaint (03/09/99 - dead
WASHINGTON (AP) "A new discrimination complaint against the Agriculture
Department is going before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The class
action complaint alleges that more than 300 black managers at the department's Farm
Service Agency were unfairly denied promotions.
"The Farm Service Agency, which administers loans and credit, also had been cited by
black farmers in a lawsuit that resulted in a multimillion-dollar settlement
currently under review by a federal judge. 'It's not surprising that the Farm
Service Agency was discriminating against the black farmers when they have for years
systematically excluded African-Americans from policymaking positions in the upper levels
of agency management,' said lead attorney Joseph D. Gebhardt." (FoxNews, AP by
Janelle Carter, 03/09/99)
(USDA) USDA Secretary Mike Espy CAN Accept Bribes Because He's Black! (dead link)
Clinton officials defend Mike Espy's bribes and gifts "because he's
black". Independent counsel Donald C. Smaltz complained to a federal judge that
defense lawyers were playing the race card, when in fact it was a simple criminal
prosecution with substantial evidence that Espy had accepted illegal gratuities.
Prosecutor Smaltz implored the judge to specifically instruct the jury to not
consider Espy's race. The judge refused, tacitly approving the defense's playing of
the race card to an almost all-black jury. The judge thus opened the door for the
jury to ignore the points of law and the evidence.
Espy's jury was composed of 11 blacks and 1 white. As feared, the jury ignored the
established facts and evidence of Espy's acceptance of illegal gratuities, essentially
practicing "jury nullification" (which is illegal). The jury chose instead
to focus on defense statements that Espy had generated hostility in the agency due to his
discriminatory practice of promoting blacks ahead of more qualified whites. Which
was not part of the criminal case against Espy at all. The Clinton White House
welcomed Espy back to his post with a press conference and much fanfare. (based on
the story in the Washington Post, 11/03/98, by Bill Miller, on page A-4)
USDA: U.S. Black Farmers to Receive Millions in Bias Case (01/05/99 - dead link)
"I'm elated,'' said Rep. Maxine Waters, a Democrat
from California and the former head of the congressional black caucus which held a hearing
on black farmers in 1997. According to sources close to the case, the settlement
could ultimately entail as much as $200 million in tax-free cash payments and $400 million
in debt relief for the farmers. National Black Farmers Association President John
Boyd said Tuesday the farmers would welcome the settlement money, although he felt they
deserved more. The farmers claim they were systematically denied USDA farm loans,
disaster aid and other assistance over decades because of their race, and did not get a
fair hearing at the USDA when they appealed." Blacks comprise less than 1% of
U.S. farmers. (Fox News 01-05-99)
Settlement Related Stories:Some black farmers unhappy with proposed
settlement (03/01/99 - dead link)
"WASHINGTON (AP) - Just hours before a federal judge was to give final review to a
multimillion-dollar settlement between black farmers and the Agriculture Department,
leaders of two farmer groups said Monday they have problems with the deal. Farmers
scheduled a rally Tuesday morning prior to a fairness hearing with U.S. District Judge
Paul Friedman. Several farmers also planned to speak at the hearing. "The farmers are
having some real issues with what has been proposed,'' said Gary Grant, president of the
Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association." (AP via Fox News 03/01/99, by Janelle
Millions Not Enough; Black Farm
Leader Sues for Alleged Slur (02/24/99 - dead link)
WASHINGTON (AP) - "A leader of the black
farmers who recently settled with the Agriculture Department over past discrimination has
filed a $10 million lawsuit in U.S. District Court accusing a top agency aide of using a
"John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, filed the lawsuit
Wednesday. It names Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman; August Schumacher, undersecretary
for farm and foreign agricultural services; and Teresa Gruber, Schumacher's lawyer.
"Boyd contends that at the end of a May 27 conference call with Schumacher, Gruber
used the word 'nigger'' in referring to him.
"An inspector general for the agency investigated and concluded that insufficient
evidence supports Boyd's claim. Boyd likened the investigation to 'the fox watching the
henhouse.' " (AP, via FoxNews, 02/24/99)
$1 Billion Payout in
Settlement (01/23/99 - dead
"The agreement gives a tax-free payment of $50,000 to black farmers who claim the
Agriculture Department discriminated against them between 1981 and 1996. In addition
to the $50,000 payment, the settlement also would excuse black farmers' debts to the USDA,
which average between $95,000 and $100,000. [Lead attorney Alex Pires] said the
average white farmer owes $130,000 to $140,000 to the department." [The
white farmers' larger debts will not be forgiven under the terms of this
settlement.] (FoxNews, 01/23/99)
Settlement with Black Farmers
Falls Short (opinion, 01/14/99) (dead link)
"Fewer than 1 per cent of the nation's farmers are black. Almost 80 years ago, 14 per
cent of American farmers were black. On these pages last month there appeared a column on
the subject of the need for more black farmers. Few young blacks seriously consider
agriculture as livelihood any more, and the settlement won't encourage them."
(Toledo Blade, 01/14/99, by Rose Russell)
USDA Settlement Too Little,
Too Late for Many Black Farmers (dead link)
"Up in Washington, the lawyers, the activists and even President Clinton cheered what
many call the biggest civil rights victory in decades, a deal that promises to pay black
farmers hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate them for discrimination suffered at
the hands of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"But as Calvin C. Brown stared out at the windswept fields that he helped clear with
his own hands here in southern Virginia, the 72-year-old tobacco farmer said that while he
finds satisfaction in the court settlement negotiated last week, he sees little reason to
celebrate. What has been taken from him and other black farmers can never be restored, he
said, not even with an agreement that some say could pay as many as 5,000 black farmers as
much as $1 billion.
" 'I think it is a good settlement,' Brown said. 'But for many farmers, even $1
million would not be enough to make up for the stress and pain they went through. If you
make it impossible for a farmer to farm, what else can he do?' " (Washington
Post, 01-10-99, by Michael A. Fletcher, page A10)
Proposed compensation too little
for farmers (dead link)
"The cost of slavery and discrimination on its victims in America has always been
incalculable. No remedy or reparation has been sufficient for the pain extracted. Just as
the 40 acres and a mule promised to slaves after the Civil War was paltry compensation for
two centuries of enforced servitude, $50,000 is insufficient for black farmers who,
because of generations of discrimination, have been denied a livelihood.
"Yet that is what 1,000 to 3,000 black farmers will get from the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, the result of a settlement reached last week in a 1997 class-action suit
brought by black farmers who accused the USDA of discriminatory lending practices.
"The farmers sought $3 billion in damages. The settlement could range between $200
million and $600 million. Black farmers who provide proof of discrimination will receive
$50,000 tax-free and will be forgiven their federal debts. Those with better documentation
could get more through arbitration." (San Antonio Express News, 01-09-99,
MORE Accusations by Black Farmers:
U.S. to Investigate a
Complaint of Bias (posted 08/12/99 - expired link)
"The Agriculture Department is investigating complaints by black farmers that they
were improperly denied disaster assistance in Arkansas and Georgia this year, even as the
department was settling a multimillion-dollar civil rights lawsuit. The complaints involve
three county offices of the department's Farm Service Agency, one in Arkansas and two in
Georgia. Rosalind Gray, director of the Agriculture Department's civil rights office, said
it would take appropriate action when the investigations were completed. The cases in
Arkansas and Georgia were among a number of complaints of racial discrimination that the
department received in distributing the disaster aid. But many of those bringing the
complaints declined to cooperate with investigators, Ms. Gray said."
(Associated Press via New York Times)
Black Farmers Protest At USDA
(08/10/99 - dead link)
"About 150 black farmers - some armed with signs declaring "Give us 1.5 million
acres back'' and "No justice, no peace'' - marched outside the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's headquarters Tuesday, calling for an end to years of alleged discriminatory
practices. The protest came despite a $2 billion settlement between the USDA and a group
of black farmers in April. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman approved the settlement
as a way to end decades of discrimination in farm loans and aid. "Years and years of
federal investigation have shown that discrimination exists in this department,'' said
John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, while shaking his fist at
the USDA headquarters building located on the Mall" (Reuters, via FoxNews,
END of USDA News Page.