By Black Radio Network staff
WASHINGTON - Republican presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann, is criticizing the multibillion dollar Pigford settlement paid to black farmers as "wasteful government spending."
Bachmann made the comments during a news conference with Republican Steve King of Iowa after touring flooded areas along the Missouri River.
When asked about whether farmers affected by the flooding also should be worried by proposed U.S. Department of Agriculture cuts, the two responded by criticizing the 1999 settlement.
King has labeled the Pigford settlement “modern-day reparations” for African-Americans. He said a large portion 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 agreed with 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.”
John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, which represented black farmers in the Pigford settlement, called the criticism unfair.
“Why continue to take from those people who haven’t taken part in federal programs equally and give to another group of farmers who have taken part in federal programs?” Boyd asked. “I think taking resources from a group of people who have been historically denied any relief at the Department of Agriculture is a bad idea. For the flood victims that deserve redress … they should provide those people with relief, too.”
Boyd said he and others worked to put anti-fraud provisions in the legislation signed last year. They require each claim of discrimination to be judged individually to determine its merit — a process that Boyd said has not yet even begun.
“We worked with Republicans … to get those issues addressed,” he said. “Even after we got them addressed, Ms. Bachmann and Mr. King have continued to look at black farmers in a very negative way.
Boyd added, “I think it’s bad for the American people. I think if Ms. Bachmann wants to be president of the United States, she should treat all people fairly.”