Historic Settlement Reached in Native American Farmer Discrimination Case >>

October 20th, 2010

HISTORIC SETTLEMENT REACHED IN NATIVE AMERICAN FARMER DISCRIMINATION CASE

On October 14th, the parties in a class-action discrimination suit involving Native American farmers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Justice, now known as Keepseagle v. Vilsack, announced in federal court that they had reached a settlement.

This proposed settlement would resolve an 11-year old case alleging that USDA discriminated against Native Americans in their applications for Farm Service Agency farm loans and loan servicing while white farmers received loans and better service. The original plaintiffs in the case were Marilyn and George Keepseagle of the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation, Claryca Mandan of the Fort Berthold Reservation, and Porter Holder of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. The settlement includes $80 million in farm debt forgiveness for the Indian plaintiffs and a series of initiatives to address racism against American Indians and other minorities in rural farm loan offices.

The case does not need congressional approval, unlike the Pigford II case (black farmer discrimination case) and the Cobell case, which are both awaiting congressional approval; and the United States would use a fund called the Judgement Fund, administered by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Treasury Department, to make the payments set forth in the settlement.

President Obama issued a press release announcing the settlement, stating”[W]e take an important step forward in remedying USDA’s unfortunate civil rights history” and that the agreement “helps strengthen the nation to nation relationship and underscores the federal government’s commitment to treat all citizens fairly.” The judge presiding over the case, Emmet Sullivan, stated the plaintiffs “have been waiting years for justice.” Click to read President Obama’s full statement on the settlement.

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