USDA makes up to US$760M available for settlement claims in Keepseagle class action suit alleging USDA discriminated against Native American farmers, ranchers in farm loan program

WASHINGTON , July 27, 2011 (press release) – Janie Hipp, Senior Adviser to Secretary Vilsack for Tribal Relations today reminded Native American farmers and ranchers that the period to file a claim in the Keepseagle class action settlement has opened.

"Now that the claims process is open, Native American farmers and ranchers who believe they are entitled to funds under the Keepseagle settlement must file a claim within 180 days in order to have a chance to receive a cash payment or loan forgiveness," said Ms. Hipp. "Tribal leaders may want to consider advising Tribal members of the requirement to obtain and submit a completed claims package if they wish to participate in the Keepseagle claims process."

Keepseagle v. Vilsack was a lawsuit alleging that USDA discriminated against Native American farmers and ranchers in the way it operated its farm loan program. The lawsuit was settled late last year and the settlement has been approved by the court.

The filing period opened June 29, 2011 and continues for 180 days, until December 27, 2011.

Up to $760 million will be made available in monetary relief, debt relief, and tax relief to successful claimants. There are two tracks for claims: Successful Track A claimants may receive up to $50,000; successful Track B claimants may receive up to $250,000. The standard of proof for Track B claims is a higher standard than what will be applied to Track A claims.

Keepseagle class counsel is holding a number of meetings in the coming months throughout Indian Country and they will provide assistance to help Track A claimants fill out a claims package at those meetings

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