Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chair, I rise today in support of the gentleman's amendment to this legislation.
First, I want to be clear that I do believe that discrimination against many black farmers occurred. In 1997 a group of black farmers who had been discriminated against filed a case against USDA. By 1999 the courts agreed and approved a settlement for the farmers who had been discriminated against and provided a framework and time frames to settle the claims. Included in this settlement, the court provided a time frame for new claimants to have their cases heard. Anyone who had a claim was given the opportunity to come forward during this court approved window.
Despite this framework, we are still allowing additional payments to others, who had an earlier opportunity to file claims but did not. What is most disturbing is that approximately 94,000 total claims have been filed, yet census data shows that there were only 33,000 black farmers in the U.S. during the relevant time period. Furthermore, whistleblowers have come forward, including a black farmer, alleging widespread fraud in this process. These serious allegations of fraud should be investigated before we spend potentially $1.2 billion on these claims, especially when the standard of proof for these claims is reduced under this settlement compared to what it would have been in a court.
I believe that we must investigate any allegations of fraud that are occurring before this Congress allows any more funds to be used for the settlement. Just as it would be an injustice to not grant relief to black farmers who had been discriminated against, it would also be an injustice to grant an award to an individual who had not been discriminated against.