The Judgment Fund maintained by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Treasury will fund any monetary awards provided under the settlement. USDA will provide up to $20 million to administer the settlement. In addition to the monetary award, the agreement provides up to $80 million in debt forgiveness to successful claimants with outstanding USDA Farm Loan program debt. Also, a moratorium on foreclosures of most claimants’ farms and a moratorium on accelerations and administrative offsets of class members’ farm loan accounts will be put into place until after claimants have gone through the claims process or the Secretary of Agriculture has been notified that a claim has been denied.

The settlement also provides a broad range of programmatic relief for Native American farmers, including creation of a new Federal Advisory Council for Native American farmers and ranchers that will include Native American representation from around the country as well as senior USDA officials.

Meanwhile, a new Ombudsman position will be created to address farm program issues relating to Native American farmers and ranchers as well as all other socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. The Department will also offer Native American farmers enhanced technical assistance services through the establishment of a network that provides intensive instruction to recipients concerning financial, business and market planning skills and supports the deployment of tribal agriculture advocates and third party outreach and education providers.  
 
  

This lawsuit, Marilyn Keepseagle et al., v. Vilsack (Civil Action No. 99-3119 (D.D.C.)), was filed on Nov. 24, 1999. The settlement will not become final until it is formally approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Additional information on the efforts undertaken by the Secretary and USDA management is available at: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/.