Grassley, King differ on Pigford

Two Iowa Republicans have vastly different views on the “Pigford” case involving alleged USDA discrimination against black farmers. Senator Chuck Grassley’s staff issued a prepared statement late Tuesday, praising the steps taken, while Congressman Steve King has been howling about it for months.  On Monday King railed against a “very, very urban” senator’s involvement in the issue (former Senator Barack Obama) and “slavery reparations.”  

Read more about King’s comments and the releases from both Iowa Republicans below in the order those releases were issued

November 30, 2010: King Offers Amendment to Protect Taxpayers from Billion Dollar Pigford Fraud

Washington D.C.- Congressman Steve King (R-IA) today issued the following statement after an amendment he offered to prevent an additional $1.15 billion from being spent on the fraud-riddled Pigford settlement program was blocked from further consideration by the Rules Committee. King’s amendment to H.R. 4783, the Claims Resolution Act of 2010, sought to delete bill language appropriating $1.15 billion for the controversial Pigford settlement program. The House Rules Committee blocked King’s amendment from further consideration on Monday night.

“The unaccountable lame duck Congress is preparing to put Americans on the hook for an additional $1.15 billion in spending on a Pigford II settlement program that is rife with fraud despite the fact that current law caps the amount to be spent on these claims at $100 million,” said King. “To make matters worse, the Democrats who temporarily control the Rules Committee will not even allow my amendment protecting taxpayers from this excessive and fraudulent spending to be presented on the House floor for a vote. By cutting off consideration of my amendment, and by refusing to investigate serious allegations of Pigford fraud prior to voting on legislation allocating an additional $1.15 billion to the program, the lame duck Congress is, in effect, enabling Pigford fraud and this calls for an investigation by the 112th Congress.”

November 30, 2010: Pigford II Funding Agreement Clears House

WASHINGTON — Senator Chuck Grassley praised the quick action of the House of Representatives after it passed legislation to fund the Pigford II settlement.  The Claims Resolution Act of 2010 resolves claims against the government related to the Cobell class action lawsuit, the Pigford class action lawsuit, as well as tribal water rights claims for the White Mountain Apache, Crow, Taos Pueblo, and Aamodt Tribes.  The legislation is fully paid for, and contains additional safeguards to better fight fraud in the program.  The bill cleared the Senate on November 19.

“When I first started working on this issue, I had hoped to resolve these civil rights issues through the administrative process.  I knew that if we had to pass legislation, it would take years,” Grassley said.  “As we’ve seen, the legislative process did take years, but these farmers who were wronged by our own federal government agency will now, once President Obama signs the bill, finally be able to plead their case in front of a neutral party and be judged on the merits.”

Grassley led the effort to ensure fair treatment for African American farmers who were denied the opportunity have their case heard for the Pigford v. Glickman settlement, which ended a discrimination lawsuit between African American farmers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Approximately 75,000 black farmers filed their claims of discrimination through the Pigford consent decree process past the deadline for their claims to be evaluated on the merits.  As a result, thousands of victims of discrimination continue to be denied an opportunity even to have their claims heard.

Grassley worked to put in place a process where these African American farmers can have the opportunity to plead their case based on the merits.  He introduced legislation in 2007 and pressed for it to be included in the 2008 farm bill.

The Pigford II settlement includes several substantial changes from Pigford I in order to better fight fraud.  Changes have been made to the settlement agreement that will enhance the Department’s ability to fight fraud including requiring adjudicators to be a truly neutral party; allowing that neutral adjudicator to ask the claimant for additional documentation if he or she suspects any fraud; requiring the claimants’ attorneys to certify that there is evidentiary support for the claims; and requiring the Office of Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office to evaluate the Department’s internal controls and audit the process in adjudicating the claims.

December 1, 2010: King: “The new Congress should make an investigation of Pigford fraud a top priority.”

Congressman King calls for Congressional investigation after lame duck Congress appropriates $1.15 billion to fraud-plagued Pigford program

Washington D.C.- Congressman Steve King (R-IA) today issued the following statement after the lame duck Congress passed legislation appropriating $1.15 billion to fund the controversial and fraud-plagued Pigford settlement program. Although estimates suggest that the total universe of black farmers who could qualify for Pigford compensation only encompasses 18,000 people, over 94,000 people have submitted claims under the program. The Pigford funding request was included in H.R. 4783, the Claims Resolution Act of 2010, which passed the House of Representatives on a 256-152 vote yesterday afternoon. Congressman King voted against the legislation.

“The unaccountable lame duck Congress has irresponsibly voted to spend $1.15 billion on a Pigford settlement program that is severely compromised by fraud,” said King. “This means that people who have never farmed and people who have never been discriminated against by the USDA will be receiving tens of thousands of dollars in cash and debt relief simply for having filed a false claim. By ignoring Pigford fraud, Congress has allowed the program to change from one designed to address black farmers’ discrimination claims to one that now serves as a modern day slavery reparations program. The American people should be outraged by this vote and the new Congress should make an investigation of Pigford fraud a top priority.”

TPM has a link to C-SPAN video of King’s comments in the House.  The Minnesota Independent also has a story.  Both reference King’s statement that the Pigford settlement amounts to “slavery reparations” that were devised by “a very, very urban Senator Barack Obama.”

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Rep Steve King, on the floor of the House of Representatives, stated that the reason that Pigford claims are fraudulant is because the children of black farmers moved to cities to become drug addicts. The offensively racist things that Steve King has said call in to question his decency as a human being and qualifications as an Iowa congressman.

  2. Any inquisitive person wishing to find the true information behind Steve King’s misleading bigoted rhetoric, I have taken the liberty to post a comment by an individual named Different Tim found in the comments thread from the Minnesota Independent.

    /// The following is Different Tim’s comment ///

    Here is a link to the Congressional hearing on inadequate notice given to claimants.

    Note that the hearing was in 2004, when the House was controlled by Republicans. Note also that the hearing was held by the Subcommittee on the Constitution. Note that a member of this Subcommittee was Steve King from Iowa. Note that the chair of the subcommittee was Stephen Cabot, Republican from Ohio.

    Now look at page 6 of the pdf, and see the opening statement from Chabot, part of which says:

    “Tragically, recent statistics released on the Consent Decree suggest
    to this Subcommittee that this constitutional right was not
    safeguarded in the construction and administration of the Consent
    Decree. Although the notice campaign designed was deemed to be
    effective by the court in a fairness hearing held on April 14, 1999,
    the determination was made using advertising industry tools designed
    to measure the likely effectiveness of a campaign, not the
    actual effectiveness of a campaign. Reports indicate that approximately
    66,000 potential class members submitted their claims late,
    most because they did not know that they were required to submit
    a claim sooner, thus losing their right to sue the USDA for past

    “It is hard for many of us to accept that 66,000 farmers would
    consciously wait to file a claim that would impact their right to life,
    liberty, and property, knowing that they were required to do so earlier.
    Further investigation into the circumstances surrounding the
    late claims reveals that many farmers failed to get any notice
    whatsoever or failed to understand the contents of the notice if
    they did receive the notice. These facts lead this Subcommittee to
    conclude that the notice implemented in the Pigford case was either
    ineffective or defective as nearly two-thirds of the putative
    class failed to be effectively notified of the case requirements.”

    So if the number of claimants is fraud, is ridiculous, why is that in 2004, a Republican controlled subcommittee, on which Steve King sat, did not make a case that there is no way there could be 66,000 claimants? To the contrary, they acknowledge that 66,000 claimants may have been harmed through lack of notice.

    Further, the re-opening of the claims process known as “Pigford II” was sponsored by Charles Grassley, Republican Senator from Iowa.

    Again, why did Steve King, who was on the subcommittee, sit silent while the Republican chairman Chabot gave credence to the 66,000 number?

    /// End Different Tim’s comment ///