For Immediate Release
December 15, 2011
Ethel Truly 601-965-4300, ext.102
WASHINGTON, December 15, 2011 – Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack announced last week the establishment of a special advisory board to help USDA officials ensure that Native Americans have the opportunity to participate in and benefit from USDA programs. The board is being put in place as part of the settlement of Keepseagle v Vilsack.
"The Council for Native American Farming and Ranching will help Native American governments, businesses, farmers and ranchers partner with USDA to create jobs, drive economic growth and strengthen tribal communities," Vilsack said.
All nominations for advisory board membership should be sent by January 20, 2012 to: Thomas Vilsack, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC, 20250, Attn: Council for Native American Farmers and Ranchers. Send comments to the Office of Tribal Relations, 500A Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Washington DC 20250.
The Council will work closely with the Office of Tribal Relations, Farm Service Agency and other USDA agencies to improve the success of Native American farmers and ranchers who access USDA's portfolio of programs to build and achieve profitability in their businesses. USDA recently established a technical assistance network with the Intertribal Agriculture Council in 13 regional locations. USDA also recently launched a strike force initiative in southeastern states that is now expanding to western states with substantial Native American populations. These two technical assistance efforts will work together to ensure the unique challenges of Native Americans, living both on and off reservations, can be addressed. Agriculture is the second largest employer of Native Americans, according to the National Congress of American Indians.
Keepseagle v Vilsack
was a lawsuit alleging that USDA discriminated against Native American farmers and ranchers in the way it operated the Farm Loan Program. The lawsuit was settled late last year, and the settlement has been approved by the court. The filing period for claims opened June 29, 2011, and will close December 27, 2011. Up to $760 million will be made available in monetary relief, debt relief and tax relief to successful claimants. Claimant services representatives can be reached through calling 1-888-233-5506. Claimants must register for a claims package by calling the number or visiting http://www.indianfarmclass.com