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Associated Press, Published December 08 2009

Settlement talks set in Indian farmers lawsuit

BISMARCK, N.D. — A federal judge has granted two months for settlement talks in a decade-old discrimination lawsuit filed by American Indians against the federal Agriculture Department.

The two sides in the case asked Judge Emmet Sullivan for the 60 days. Sullivan has moved a status hearing in the case that was scheduled for Wednesday to Feb. 10.

The lawsuit, filed in 1999, contends Indian farmers and ranchers lost hundreds of millions of dollars during the past three decades because of discrimination in lending by the Agriculture Department's Farm Service Agency.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told Indian farmers and ranchers during a meeting in Washington last month that the department was committed to resolving litigation.

George and Marilyn Keepseagle, who ranch on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border, are the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

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