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USDA whistles past the Pigford graveyard

Racism is dead at USDA. Discrimination has gone the way of the dodo. Since 2009, when Secretary Vilsack called for a new era in civil rights, racism and discrimination have been banished to the scrapheap of USDA history.

And what a costly scrapheap — more akin to gold than garbage. A rough tally of USDA discrimination settlements: $1.15 billion for black farmers; $760 million for Indian farmers; and $1.3 billion for Hispanic and women farmers combined. If legislative and man-hour costs are tacked on, that towering scrapheap reaches well over the $3 billion mark. Settlements? Makes you wonder what the high-water mark was for the plaintiffs’ lawyers if they ‘settled’ for $3 billion.

As the green is doled out to a conga line of aggrieved farmers, ‘The Last Plantation’ atmosphere is apparently no more at USDA; buried in an act of monetary absolution. A contrite USDA wishes to be absolved of past sins. But sins require sinners. Where are they? Has USDA fired anyone? Have the guilty been named? Years and years of bias reportedly inflicted on over 100,000 U.S. famers — and no perpetrator to show for it? USDA admits guilt to the tune of billions in discrimination claims — and no heads roll?

Take the black farmer suit (Pigford vs. Glickman) as a barometer: The charges of USDA racism cover a period from 1983 to 1997. There are approximately 90,000 black farmers making settlement claims in this case alone. So how many USDA employees or appointees were involved in abusing these farmers and precisely what were the charges? Was there collusion? Were the employees just solo rogues? How far up the chain did it go? Who knew what and when? Point us to the villains.

How about just giving us the names? Yes, yes, give the U.S. taxpayer ($3 billion lighter in the pocket) the names. The list of names would have to be legion. USDA could unfurl a giant scroll and rattle off all the names — sort of a last exorcism.

No? No? OK, give out some of the names then. No? No? All right, give out one name; some patsy to take the fall. No? No? Fine then, just give us a dead guy to pin the whole thing on. Yeah, a dead guy; a real martyr to the cause. Nice and tidy, nothing to see here people — move along, move along.

Instead, USDA has played out its Jimmy Swaggart moment, shedding dollars in place of tears, and now it wants to leap back into pulpit ministry with no questions and no accountability. Most of the media certainly won’t scrutinize the settlements. The suits have hardly raised a pimple on the mainstream’s fanny. 

On it goes, USDA whistles past the Pigford graveyard, which it assures us is empty. The bodies won’t be dug up — because there are no bodies to dig up. No, not even a single one. Come on ….. who ya gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?

TAGS: Legislative
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