The Department of Agriculture (USDA) is soliciting nominations for a new Council for Native American Farming and Ranching (Council). Formation of the Council was mandated by the Keepseagle v. Vilsack settlement, a class action lawsuit of Native American farmers and ranchers against the USDA. The Council will advise the Secretary on issues of Native American participation in USDA farm programs and other matters as spelled out in the attached December 6, 2011, FEDERAL REGISTER notice.
The settlement, which was given final court approval on April 28, 2011, provides $680 million for damages, up to $80 million in loan forgiveness, and actions by USDA to enhance Native American participation in its farm programs. These funds are paid out of the Judgment Fund and are thus not subject to the congressional appropriations process. For additional information see our General Memorandum 10-136 of October 22, 2010.
The Council will consist of fifteen persons, eleven of whom are to represent Native American interests (although the person does not need to be Native American) and four high-ranking USDA officials. Nominations are to be postmarked no later than January 20, 2012. Council members may receive reimbursement for travel expenses and per diem, subject to availability of funds. Registered federal lobbyists are not eligible to be named to the Council. Members of the Council may include:
• Native American farmers or ranchers who have participated in USDA loan or payment programs
• Representatives of organizations with a history of working with Native American farmers or ranchers
• Civil rights professionals
• Representatives of tribal governments with demonstrated experience working with Native American farmers or ranchers, and
• Such other persons as the Secretary considers appropriate.
Please let us know if we may provide additional information regarding the Council on Native American Farming and Ranching.