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History

Keepseagle v. Vilsack

In 1999, the Keepseagle v. Vilsack class-action suit was filed alleging that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) had engaged in discrimination against Native American farmers and ranchers in loan programs and servicing of loans dating back to 1981.

In 2010, after more than a decade of litigation, the federal government and the parties agreed to a settlement. The original settlement resulted in the creation of a $680 million compensation fund, another $80 million in debt relief, and tax relief in addition to other forms of programmatic relief to be instituted by USDA. A six-month claims process resulted in approved claims for more than 3,600 Native farmers and ranchers.

As a part of the settlement agreement, a cy pres fund was created. After a significant period of further negotiation, a second compensation payment and additional tax relief to successful claimants was approved and an additional $38 million in “fast track” grants to nonprofit and other eligible organizations that support Native farmers and ranchers was also authorized.

In 2018, the court directed that the remaining funds be distributed through a newly created Native American Agriculture Fund. Having received final approval to begin its work in 2018, the Native American Agriculture Fund must distribute its funds within a period of 20 years. The Native American Agriculture Fund will provide grants to eligible entities for business assistance, agricultural education, technical support, and advocacy services to support Native farmers and ranchers . Eligible entities include 501(c)3 organizations, educational organizations, CDFIs and Native CDFIs, and tribal governments.