Stossel Criticizes USDA's “Groveling Apology” For Its Widespread Discrimination Against Black Farmers

During his latest Fox News special, called Freeloaders, John Stossel did a segment reporting that “billions of your tax dollars” are being “eat[en]” because of the government's settlement of Pigford v. Glickman, a race discrimination case against the U.S. Department of Agriculture brought by black farmers.

During the segment, Stossel claimed that, after an attorney brought a lawsuit against USDA, "[t]he government issued a groveling apology." However, in his piece, Stossel ignores the widespread evidence that USDA did in fact discriminate against black people on a large scale. (Stossel did report that one black farmer, Jimmy Dismuke, “was discriminated against, and he collected $50,000.”)

Recall that Stossel has previously said that “private businesses ought to get to discriminate” on the basis of race and called for the repeal of part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Regarding that “groveling apology”: a 1994 study found disparities between the way USDA treated black and white farmers. According to a Congressional Research Service report:

The study examined conditions from 1990 to 1995 and looked primarily at crop payments and disaster payment programs and Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) loans. The final report found that from 1990 to 1995, minority participation in FSA programs was very low and minorities received less than their fair share of USDA money for crop payments, disaster payments, and loans.

The 1994 study ultimately couldn't determine the reason for the discrepancy because of “gross deficiencies” in USDA's data handling.

Furthermore, in his opinion approving the Pigford settlement between black farmers and the government, federal judge Paul Friedman said:

For decades, despite its promise that “no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be otherwise subjected to discrimination under any program or activity of an applicant or recipient receiving Federal financial assistance from the Department of Agriculture,” 7 C.F.R. § 15.1, the Department of Agriculture and the county commissioners discriminated against African American farmers when they denied, delayed or otherwise frustrated the applications of those farmers for farm loans and other credit and benefit programs. Further compounding the problem, in 1983 the Department of Agriculture disbanded its Office of Civil Rights and stopped responding to claims of discrimination. These events were the culmination of a string of broken promises that had been made to African American farmers for well over a century.

And in a Pigford decision involving one of the people Stossel mentioned in the report, Shirley Sherrod, the arbitrator said that a USDA program “did treat a similarly situated white farmer more favorably than” it did Sherrod's farmer. In addition, the arbitrator likened the way Sherrod and her partners were treated to the way a “feudal baron” dealt with his serfs.

So do the victims of discrimination involved in the Pigford case really deserve to be labeled as “freeloaders”? Should USDA really be criticized for issuing a “groveling” apology for its history of race discrimination?

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