Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund responds to New York Times criticism of farmer settlements..
In a press release this week, the organization known as the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund responded to the New York Times April 26th, 2013 article which blasted the various farmer discrimination settlements and accused many claimants in the Black Farmer Discrimination settlements of committing fraud by filing false claims. The New York Times article was titled, “ U.S. Opens Spigot After Farmers Claim Discrimination” (incorrectly cited by the FSC/LAF press release)
The press release, titled “‘Sharon LaFraniere got it Wrong!’ Response to the coverage of the Pigford Settlement in the April 26, New York Times”, notes various statements made by the New York Times, and responds to each one describing how each is false or misleading.
The FSC/LAF states that the NYT author never interviewed those associated with the ongoing discrimination and completely ignored the discriminatory practices of the USDA. Some of the specific rebuttals follow:
- Article: “Justice department lawyers worried about false claims….it was better to err on the side of giving money to people…”
- Response: This was no giveaway. Initially 40% of all claims were denied. Some of these people appealed and, in the end, 30% of all claims were denied.
- Article: “But four-fifths of successful claimants had never done so [previously received loans].”
- Response: What basis does the reporter have for making this claim? There is no data analysis on this issue. By implying that those persons are unworthy of relief or should be disregarded to avoid the possibility of fraud, that statement strikes at the very heart of this claims process-its goal of providing compensation to farmers who were excluded from USDA’s programs. Of course, people who were excluded would not have previously received loans.
- Article: “Accusations of unfair treatment could be checked against department files if claimants had previously received loans…but there was no way to refute what they said.”
- Response: Local USDA did refute claims even where no documentation existed. They often submitted affidavits disputing a claim that the person had applied for loans.
It should be noted that in the Second Quarter of 2012, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund was paid a total of $150,000.00 from the settlement fund for charges associated with dissemination of information regarding the Settlement Agreement and claims process, and public relations work regarding potential fraud targeting potential class members.