Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is saying a settlement for black farmers is a magnet for fraud. Bachmann referred to one program, in particular, Monday when talking about wasteful government spending: a multibillion dollar settlement paid to black farmers, who claim the federal government discriminated against them for decades in awarding loans and other aid. Touring flooded areas along the Missouri River. with Iowa with Rep. Steve King, Bachmann voiced opposition to the settlement, which became an obsession in the conservative blogosphere months ago:
During a news conference, they fielded a question about whether farmers affected by the flooding also should be worried by proposed U.S. Department of Agriculture cuts. The two responded by criticizing a 1999 settlement in what is known as the Pigford case, after the original plaintiff, North Carolina farmer Timothy Pigford. Late last year, President Barack Obama signed legislation authorizing a new, nearly $1.2 billion settlement for people who were denied payments in the earlier one because they missed deadlines for filing.
King has likened the Pigford settlement to “modern-day reparations” for African-Americans. He said Monday a large percentage of the settlement “was just paid out in fraudulent claims” and criticized the Obama administration’s plan to resolve separate lawsuits filed by Hispanic and female farmers. That’s another at least $1.3 billion,” King said “I’d like to apply that money to the people that are under water right now.”
Bachmann seconded King’s criticism, saying, “When money is diverted to inefficient projects, like the Pigford project, where there seems to be proof-positive of fraud, we can’t afford $2 billion in potentially fraudulent claims when that money can be used to benefit the people along the Mississippi River and the Missouri River.”
The Pigford settlement is over, that the USDA spent years handing out loans and assistance to white farmers hand over fist while ignoring black farmers who asked for help, and has agreed to help black farmers who asked for but did not receive assistance during that time. Bachmann’s own family farm has received $260,000 in farm subsidies over the years.
Bachmann’s criticism wasn’t limited to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Minnesota congresswoman also took a swipe at the president, who has not visited areas of Iowa, Nebraska or other states flooded by the river. “The devastation is beyond what people can imagine,” Bachmann said. “Surely this is worthy of a presidential visit to come see this level of devastation in western Iowa.”By: Pat Prescott
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