Tribal Relations announced last week that the claim filing period for the Keepseagle Native American farmer class action settlement has opened. Native American Indian farmers and ranchers have until December 27, 2011 to file a claim to receive up to $50,000 or more from the Keepseagle v. Vilsack settlement.
Under the Keepseagle settlement agreement, reached last October, the USDA agreed to pay Native American farmers and ranchers $760 million to settle charges that it discriminated against Native Americans by denying them equal access to credit in the USDA Farm Loan Program. According to the class action lawsuit, the USDA denied thousands of Native American farmers and ranchers the same opportunities to get farm loans or loan servicing that were given to white farmers and ranchers. The lawsuit also claims the USDA did not do outreach to Native American farmers and ranchers or provide them with the technical assistance they needed to prepare applications for loans and loan servicing.
Class Members of the Keepseagle class action settlement include all Native American farmers and ranchers who:
* Farmed or ranched or attempted to farm or ranch between January 1, 1981 and November 24, 1999; and
* Sought, or attempted to seek, a farm loan from the USDA during that period; and
* Complained about discrimination to the USDA orally or in writing on their own or through a representative, such as a tribal government, during the same time period.
Excluded are claims of Class Members who either:
* Experienced discrimination only between January 1 and November 23, 1997; or
* Complained of discrimination only between July 1 and November 23, 1997.
Up to $760 million will be made available in monetary relief, debt relief, and tax relief to successful Keepseagle settlement 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 USDA will also provide up to $80 million to forgive outstanding loans of qualifying Class Members who file a successful claim through Track A or Track B. If you have certain USDA loans you may be eligible for loan forgiveness as well as an additional payment made to the IRS of 25% of the loan forgiven to reduce any income tax you may owe.
To receive any benefits from the Native American Indian farmer class action settlement, you must submit a valid claim form no later than December 27, 2011.
Claim forms and more information on your rights in the Keepseagle v. Vilsack Class Action Lawsuit Settlement
can be found at www.IndianFarmClass.com