[imgbelt img=George+Keepseagle.jpg]

Native American farmers and ranchers filed a class action suit ten years ago, alleging that the USDA had discriminated against them by denying federal loans.

Kari Lyderson of the Washington Post writes that Indian plaintiffs (like North Dakotan George Keepseagle, pictured above) now hope for a settlement.

Ron His Horse Is Thunder, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, told Lyderson, “All the [USDA] agents at the local level are non-Indian, and they all have friends and family who are farmers and ranchers, so when they start denying access to loans to Native Americans and that land is lost, it’s [the loan official’s] family or friends who end up buying this land.”

African-American farmers prevailed in 1999, with a similar class-action suit. “Nearly a billion dollars was paid to Pigford claimants, and this year President Obama requested $1.25 billion more for farmers who missed the 2000 filing deadline.”

Secretary Tom Vilsack “has stressed his commitment to improving diversity and equal opportunity” in the USDA. And Native American farmers, the Post reports, believe that the current administration is prepared to reach a settlement.

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