The court-ordered process of officially notifying Native American farmers and ranchers about the $760 million Keepseagle class action settlement is underway.
Native American farmers and ranchers around the country are receiving detailed information about their legal rights and options by postal mail. A Summary Notice that compliments the mailed notice is being published in Native American and farming and ranching trade publications, online ads will appear on a variety of websites, and radio ads will also air in targeted areas in English and Navajo.
Class members should visit www.IndianFarmClass.com or call 888/233-5506 for complete information, including the detailed notice and key dates. Class members can also register to receive a Claims Package through the website or toll-free number, or write to Keepseagle Settlement Administrator, PO Box 3560, Portland, Ore., 97208-3560.
The plaintiffs and USDA announced the proposed settlement on Oct. 19, 2010. If approved by the court, the settlement will resolve discrimination claims related to USDA farm loans and loan servicing. The proposed settlement includes $680 million for cash payments to class members who file valid claims and up to $80 million in USDA loan forgiveness. In addition, the USDA will make some improvements to their farm loan programs including, among other items, the establishment of a new federal advisory committee, the Native American Farmer and Rancher Council, as well as adding USDA regional sub-offices to provide education and technical assistance to Native American farmers and ranchers.
Class members eligible for the Settlement are Native Americans who farmed or ranched (or attempted to farm or ranch) between Jan. 1, 1981 and Nov. 24, 1999; tried to get a farm loan or loan servicing from the USDA during that period; and complained about discrimination to the USDA either directly or through a representative.
Class members' rights may be affected by the settlement even if they do not act. Those who wish to opt out of or object to the settlement must do so by Feb. 28, 2011. Claims for cash and loan forgiveness must be filed by Dec. 24, 2011. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will consider whether to grant final approval of the settlement at a hearing on April 28, 2011 at 10 a.m.