USDA Requires Little Documentation for $50,000 Discrimination Payouts
Lachlan Markay /
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will pay up to $50,000 each to female and Hispanic farmers and ranchers who claimed they were discouraged from applying for USDA loans due to perceived discrimination. But those farmers won’t be required to prove that they ever actually farmed.
The payments are part of a settlement agreement reached between the USDA and North Carolina farmer Timothy Pigford that created a $1.33 billion fund to compensate farmers who say they were discriminated against by USDA officials between 1981 and 2000. Previous payments have gone to black and Native American farmers.
The women and Hispanic farmers fund provides different levels of compensation based on the nature of the alleged discrimination. Tier 1(a), as it’s known, is comprised of farmers and ranchers “who sought to apply for a USDA loan but were actively discouraged from submitting an application” due to perceived discrimination.
In other words, by definition, USDA has no record of 1(a) claimants actually applying for a federal loan. And according to documents USDA is providing to would-be claimants, a 1(a) payout requires minimal documentation showing that they actually farmed during the period in question.
According to a checklist of required claimant submission materials, USDA requires that all tiers submit “documentation of farm land ownership interest, if available” [emphasis added]. In other words, documents showing that one actually farmed are optional.
“A document from a non-family member to you, or from you to a non-family member that supports your contentions” is the extent of the documentation required for 1(a) claimants to demonstrate that they owned or had a stake in a farm from 1981 to 2000, according to the USDA checklist.
While that requirement does provide some measure of protection against false claims, it comes significantly short of the “documentation of farm land ownership interest” that USDA says is not required to qualify for a payout. USDA did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The thorny “attempted to farm” issue arose in previous USDA settlement payments, which, Breitbart News’s Lee Stranahan noted last month, provided a tautological basis for discrimination compensation:
The low bar was a trick that the lawyers and politicians put into Pigford years ago; the “attempted to farm” standard. All you had to do was to say that you attempted to farm. In other words, you made the unprovable claim that you went to a USDA office and they did not even give you an application. Your lack of an application or any other documentary evidence became the proof that you had suffered discrimination.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who scrutinized previous USDA discrimination payouts, told Scribe that the department “has not put in place adequate safeguards to prevent exploitation” of the female and Hispanic farmers settlement. “The Pigford settlement created fraud of historic proportions and now the Obama administration is heading down the same path by creating a payout system for women and Hispanic farmers,” King added.
The Pigford settlement to which King referred established a fund to reimburse black farmers, and drew significant scrutiny on that front. “Any time you’re trying to go back and compensate people based on past discrimination, figuring out who should be compensated and how much is always tricky, so the devil’s in the details,” Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz said of Pigford in 2010.
According to some reports, Pigford paid out settlement money to about 80,000 black farmers, even though there were only about 33,000 such farmers in operation during the period in question.