Details about the Native American Agriculture Fast Track Fund (NAAFTF), a one-time distribution of $38 million in settlement funds stemming from the latest federal court decision in the Keepseagle v. Vilsack settlement were released today.
According to an Echo Hawk Consulting, class counsel, press release awards from NAAFTF will be made on a competitive basis to non-profit organizations, tribal programs and educational institutions which provide agricultural, business, technical or advocacy services to existing or aspiring Native American farmers and ranchers.
“Among the far-reaching benefits of the Keepseagle settlement is the means for organizations which have a track record of supporting Native American farmers and ranchers to deliver valuable assistance to promote their continued engagement in agriculture – an important component of the economy in Indian country,” said Joseph M. Sellers, lead counsel for the plaintiff class.
On April 20, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan approved the creation of a $265-million Native American-controlled trust to benefit American Indian and Alaska Native farmers and ranchers as reported by ICTMN in early May. The decision made the trust the largest ever created.
The fund was a compromise that would disperse leftover funds to prevailing claimants while putting aside $38 million to be distributed to nonprofits chosen by class counsel. The first steps of that process begin May 25 at 12 p.m. MDT, when registration, application materials, further process details and a timeline are made available at indianfarmclass.com/NAAFTF. There will be a one-month period for letters of intent applications to be submitted to determine eligibility (after review, eligible applicants will be invited to submit full proposals). Letters of intent must be submitted no later than Friday, June 24 by 5 p.m. MDT. Technical assistance relating strictly to the application process will be available by dedicated phone and email contacts.
To be eligible, an applicant organization must document that it provided agricultural, business, technical or advocacy services to Native American farmers or ranchers between January 1, 1981, and November 1, 2010; is based in the United States; and is one of the following:
— 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization
— 7871 designation as a non-profit organization chartered under the tribal law of a state or federally recognized tribe
— An educational institution described in 170(b)(1)(A)(ii)
— An instrumentality of a state or federally recognized tribe, designated under 7701(a)(40)
An applicant organization must propose its use of award funds to provide assistance designed to further Native American farming or ranching activities. Litigation, lobbying or political activities will not be eligible for funding.
According to a counsel press release, “the letter-of-intent application must include a description of the applicant organization, demonstrate eligibility through required documentation of a tribal or board resolution, the purpose for which funding is being sought, the applicant organization's total annual operating budget, total project costs (if applicable), and requested amount.”
All letters of intent will be reviewed by an advisory committee with invitations for full proposals sent to select organizations on July 28. The process will be managed and supervised by class counsel.
Recommendations will be made to the court by class counsel based on input from the advisory committee – comprised of six individuals with experience and expertise in the fields of Native American farming, ranching and philanthropy. All awards are subject to court approval and will range in size depending on an organization’s or tribe’s budget, focus and scope.
NAAFTF will consider applications from intermediary organizations having existing, relevant grant programs which can be expanded through awards.
“The Fast Track Fund will make vital resources available to these important efforts by the end of this year,” Sellers said.
The granting process could be suspended if an appeal is filed against the court’s order. The appeal process is open through June 20. If an appeal is made, the process would begin again following a decision on the appeal.