More farmers wanted for lawsuit
Facebook Twitter Email
NOVEMBER 9, 2000

In what has already been called a monumental discrimination claim, more Indian farmers are being urged to join in lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Currently, several hundred are part of a $19 billion lawsuit filed against the USDA in 1999. Among other complaints, the farmers say they were told money wasn't available while loans were given to white farmers and were required to put up more collateral than white farmers, causing them to lose property and money as a result.

Last week, the group appeared in federal court seeking to expand the lawsuit to a class action status. Alexander Pires, the lead lawyer on the case, has said it could represent as many as 40,000 to 50,000 farmers and is calling on more Native Americans to participate.

"The more people who join the suit the quicker we settle," said Pires on the nationally broadcast radio program Native America Calling on Tuesday.

But the government is arguing against such a move, saying that each case is different should be decided on its own merits.

Earlier this year, Pires successfully settled a lawsuit on behalf of African-American farmers. In that case, farmers with discrimination claims can receive a $50,000 payment from the government, $12,500 to cover taxes, and have their debts to the USDA erased.

But some protested the settlement, saying say the amount wasn't enough. They also say the USDA has been slow to act on their claims.

A ruling on the class action status of the Indian farmers suit could come before the end of the year. In the meantime, the group will again appear in federal court in December to address the foreclosure of farms, an action the USDA agreed to stop last year.

Related Stories:
Expansion of farmer lawsuit sought (Tribal Law 11/1)
Indian farmers hold rally (The Talking Circle 10/31)
USDA a 'very racist organization' (Tribal Law 09/13)

Relevant Links:
Native American Farmers Class Action Lawsuit
The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation -
TheUnited States Department of Agriculture -
The Farm Service Agency, USDA -
Civil Rights, USDA -
Guide to USDA Programs for American Indians and Alaska Natives -