Keepseagle attorneys announce $38 million in one-time grants

Plaintiffs and attorneys in the Keepseagle lawsuit. Photo by Native Sun News

A new fund will distribute $38 million in one-time grants to boost agricultural efforts in Indian Country.

The process for the Native American Agricultural Fast Track Fund will start May 25. Applications are due June 24 and awards will go out later this year.

The Fast Track Fund is the result of a new agreement in the long-running Keepseagle litigation. Last month, a judge approved a plan to distribute $380 million that was left over from the settlement to the case.

“Among the far-reaching benefits of the Keepseagle settlement is the means for organizations which have a track record of supporting Native American farmers and ranchers to deliver valuable assistance to promote their continued engagement in agriculture -- an important component of the economy in Indian Country,” attorney Joseph M. Sellers said in a press release. “The Fast Track Fund will make vital resources available to these important efforts by the end of this year.”

Potential recipients include non-profit organizations, tribal programs and educational institutions that provide agricultural, business, technical or advocacy services to existing and aspiring Native farmers and ranchers. Eligible entities must document that they have provided such services at any time between January 1, 1981, and November 1, 2010.

"Litigation, lobbying or political activities will not be eligible for funding," the press release states.

The Obama administration settled the Keepseagle case in October 2010 to address discrimination experienced by Native farmers and ranchers at the Department of Agriculture. It included $680 million in payments to Indian farmers and ranchers and an $80 million loan forgiveness fund.

Some $380 million was left over after payments were made to successful claimants. The $38 million for the Fast Track Fund comes from that amount and it is controlled by the attorneys who handled the case.

Any awards from the Fast Track Fund will be subject to court approval, according to the press release. Echo Hawk Consulting will be managing the process under the supervision of class counsel.

Another $265 million is going into a separate trust that will distribute the funds on business assistance, education and technical support for farmers and ranchers over 20 years. That effort is still in development.

The remaining $77 million is being distributed in the form of cash and tax payments to the successful claimants in the case.

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