Conservatives Try To Bash USDA Anti-Racism Suit, Shirley Sherrod | TPMMuckraker
It's also important to understand that Andrew Breitbart's timing of the release of the grossly distorted video of Sherrod, which he admits having had for weeks, may not be entirely random. Congress will soon vote on whether to fund part of a settlement between the USDA and African-American farmers who faced acknowledged discrimination -- farmers like Sherrod and her husband used to be. It's a tiny piece of the upcoming war supplemental bill.
The USDA settlements with African-American farmers are a longtime b�te noire of the right, which they deem a giveaway to a core Democratic constituency. It's not clear whether Brietbart's release of the video was specifically intended to hurt the chances of other African-America farmers to receive recompense from decades of discrimination that caused them to lose their farms, but conservatives immediately used the video to attack the settlement. The discrimination claims, known globally as the Pigford settlement, is the elephant in the room, so here's the background.
For years, and continuing through the 1990s, the USDA denied loans and grants to scores of farmers simply because they were African-American. Timothy Pigford finally sued the department in 1997; the suit became a class action with 400 additional plaintiffs and 2,000 farmers thought eligible; and the result was what's known as the Pigford settlement, decided in 1999.
The Pigford settlement offered two tracks: Track A offered $50,000 (plus loan forgiveness and tax offsets) to each eligible African-American farmer who had complained of discrimination since 1983, subject to applications and reviews; Track B offered the possibility of larger damages, provided plaintiffs could show a preponderance of evidence to arbitrators, prove their losses were greater than $50,000 and, of course, wait out the process. Less than 1 percent of the 22,721 class members chose to pursue Track B.
According to multiple sources that TPMmuckraker has not independently confirmed, Sherrod and her husband, Charles, were two of only 170 plaintiffs that chose Track B. Vilsack acknowledged in his press conference that Sherrod was a claimant in the Pigford settlement.