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American Indians still seeking resolution to agriculture lawsuit

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ranchers and farmers of American Indian descent are still looking for a resolution to a class-action lawsuit.
Ranchers and farmers of American Indian descent are still looking for a resolution to a class-action lawsuit.

American Indian farmers and ranchers are hoping that the presence of a new administration will help settle a lawsuit that is around 10 years old.

In a recent report from the Associated Press, leaders of American Indian tribes and the attorneys for American Indian farmers and ranchers plan to meet to discuss the lawsuit, which alleges the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) denied or stalled loans for the farmers. The suit was given class-action status in 2001.

According to the lawsuit, American Indian ranchers and farmers have lost out on a minimum of $500 million because of alleged discrimination from the Farm Service Agency, which is a branch in the USDA that grants loans. The loans could have helped with farmers and ranchers who faced losses such as dying herds or broken farm equipment.

George Keepseagle, a 69-year-old rancher in North Dakota, told the AP that many white ranchers who are his age have probably been able to pay off their financial debts.

"I keep chugging along but I'm struggling," Keepseagle said. "By rights and by now, I should be sitting pretty good, but I'm not."

According to a 2007 USDA report, there were 79,703 American Indian or Alaska Native operators on 61,472 ranches and farms across the country. The number of farmers or ranchers in that category has increased by 88 percent since 2002.
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