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American Indian Farmers to be paid $680 million for discrimination

American Indian farmers who experienced discrimination in federal farm programs will share up to $680 million under a legal settlement announced Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Tom Vilsack U.S. Agriculture Secretary.

The settlement will end an 11-year-old class-action lawsuit brought by American Indian farmers contending they didn't get the same consideration for low-interest farm loans as white farmers. A former USDA economist estimated that American Indians suffered actual losses of $776 million between 1981 and 2007 because of the unequal treatment.

In addition to the $680 million in damages, USDA will forgive $80 million in outstanding farm loan debt for members of the class and create new initiatives to improve the department's services for American Indians.

Unlike other recent large settlements involving American Indian trust accounts and black farmer discrimination, the settlement will not have to be approved by Congress.