What is in this article?:
- Pigford leading class counsel speaks on deadlines, eligibility requirements and fraud allegations.
- Keepseagle case against USDA still open to new claimants.
- 75,000-plus Pigford claimants expected but number will shrink when cases scrutinized.
For the past few months, BigGovernment.com – a news aggregating Web-site -- has investigated the Pigford case and spoken to numerous case insiders and players who acknowledge fraud has occurred. Few media outlets have picked up on the site’s findings – perhaps fearful of a string of controversies following BigGov’s right-wing leader, Andrew Breitbart.
For more on emerging fraud claims see BigGovernment
Last summer, Breitbart released several video clips of black USDA/FSA employee, Shirley Sherrod, speaking at a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) convention about a white farmer she’d been reluctant to help, at least in part because of race.
Following the clip’s release, Sherrod was immediately fired by Vilsack and slammed by NAACP leadership. Later, when video of the full speech emerged and the white farmer interviewed, it turned out Sherrod had actually rethought her position and helped him.
Vilsack changed his tune, apologized and offered Sherrod another position at USDA.
In the aftermath, the NAACP and numerous media talking heads castigated Breitbart for not having released the full video of Sherrod’s speech. For his part, Breitbart maintains the video clip reached him already edited.
In any case, the Sherrod incident spurred Breitbart to dig into the Pigford settlement – something he and documentary filmmaker, Lee Stranahan, continue to do enthusiastically.
Asked if he’s seen BigGovernment’s claims, Frantz says he knows of no specific cases of fraud but “while anything in life is possible … the fact is every single claim was independently scrutinized by USDA, very closely. They filed voluminous responses to many claims.
“I’d think if there was anything other than a rare episode of fraud, USDA would have detected it. I’m sure they wouldn’t have hesitated to report it.”
Anything we haven’t covered that you want our readers know about?
“In terms of Pigford II, we’re very pleased that, after all these years, these farmers who, without any dispute, suffered discrimination by USDA, will finally have an opportunity to be compensated. The same is true for the Native Americans. And we hope it will bolster the farm economy for the socially-disadvantaged farmers.”
I do have one more question. It involves the fact that the USDA apparently hasn’t fired anyone for these acts of discrimination that cost taxpayers potentially billions of dollars. The USDA won’t even say if they disciplined anyone for these acts. Can you comment?
“The only comment I can make is if USDA has knowledge that an individual did discriminate against minority farmers and ranchers, then that act of discrimination would be a violation of the agency’s rules and regulations. One would expect the agency would take disciplinary action.
“If superiors of some one – a farm loan manager or officer – has evidence of discrimination, they should take disciplinary action.”