University of Arkansas School of Law Professor Susan Schneider has authored a post on the Agricultural Law Blog agreeing with a Federation of Southern Cooperatives post refuting claims by a New York Times reporter of fraud linked to the recovery of settlement proceeds (the Pigford settlement) in litigation alleging U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan program discrimination against African-American, Hispanic, Native American, and women farmers.
Schneider states that on reading the April 25, 2013, New York Times article, titled “U.S. Opens Spigot After Farmers Claim Discrimination,” “I was alarmed to see errors, omissions, and misleading references . . . [and] I am very disappointed that the author appeared more interested in producing a salacious story than in treating the issue with the respect and depth that it deserved.” She includes a number of details overlooked in the newspaper article and concludes, “casting the story in the cynical tone of political agendas is profoundly insensitive to the many, many deserving claimants who just wanted their government to treat them the same way that it treated a white male farmer. The Times article missed the opportunity to accurately acknowledge the difficulties in righting past wrongs, the complexities of different cases, and the inability of some in agriculture to move forward.”
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives provides a claim-by-claim refutation, noting among other matters that the claims process did not encourage people to lie, the settlement program was not a giveaway—some 30 percent of all claims were denied—and of the more than 250 meetings conducted by class counsel, lawyers’ aides did not, as claimed in the article, “fill out forms for [claimants] on the spot, supplying answers.” The federation concludes by noting that the New York Times story is “largely anecodotal,” including commentary from unnamed and embittered USDA officials “who refuse to admit the undeniable legacy of discrimination at the department,” includes a misleading presentation of data, and that, of 503 cases referred, the FBI chose to investigate 60, or 3/10 of 1 percent of the 22,000 claims. See Agricultural Law Blog, April 29 and May 1, 2013.