Deadline to submit application for the Keepseagle Native American Agriculture Fast Track Fund quickly approaching

WASHINGTON – In 1999, Marilyn Keepseagle and others filed a class action lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) claiming the USDA discriminated against Native Americans by denying them equal access to credit in the USDA Farm Loan Program. In 2010, the parties reached a $760 million settlement and distribution of funds to individual claimants took place. After all successful claimants were paid, approximately $380 million remained. Earlier this year, the parties reached an agreement on what to do with the remaining funds.

The revised agreement establishes a cy pres fund of $303 million to endow grants for nonprofit, educational and tribal-sponsored organizations that serve Native ranchers and farmers. An initial distribution of $38 million of the cy pres funds, known as the Native American Agriculture Fast Track Fund (NAAFTF), is subject to distribution before the end of the year as grants to nonprofit, educational, and tribal-sponsored organizations that provided services to Native American farmers and ranchers prior to November 1, 2010. The remaining cy pres funds of approximately $265 million will be placed in a trust that will disburse the funds over a 20 year period to nonprofit, educational and tribal-sponsored organizations, including those created after November 1, 2010, that have or will provide services to Native American farmers and ranchers.

For NAAFTF grants, eligible programs may request funding to support specific activities for a maximum of 24 months and must use the funds to provide services to Native American farmers and/or ranchers, including those seeking to become farmers or ranchers, in an effort to support and promote their continued engagement in agriculture. An advisory committee of Native American leaders, under the oversight of Echo Hawk Consulting, and class counsel will administer the funds. The committee will give the highest priority to funding programs that will be conducted in the next two years. Lower priority will be given to requests for endowments and capital expenses because of the relatively low amount of the award pool.

Organizations that wish to seek NAAFTF funding must submit a letter of inquiry (LOI) application along with a resolution adopted by the relevant tribal council or organization board. The deadline to submit an LOI application is 6pm CDT Friday, June 24, 2016. LOI applications will be reviewed by the advisory committee and applicants whose LOI applications are selected for further consideration will receive a formal invitation to submit a full proposal for consideration. The advisory committee and class counsel will review the proposals and submit the final selected proposals to the court for approval October 17, 2016. For additional information as well as the online registration and LOI application, please visit the website.

The Keepseagle settlement is one of the largest class settlements with the United States in the nation’s history and provides a unique opportunity for organizations who were not members of the class to access funds to assist Native farmers and ranchers. We encourage all eligible organizations to apply for these funds and are available to assist organizations in determining their eligibility and applying for grants from the cy pres funds.

If you have any questions regarding this funding opportunity or the application process, contact Christina M. Vaughn or any member of Crowe & Dunlevy’s Indian Law & Gaming Practice Group.