Settlement talks set in Indian farmers lawsuit

AP News
Posted: Dec 08, 2009 11:41 AM

A federal judge has approved settlement talks in a decade-old discrimination lawsuit filed by American Indians against the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Both sides asked Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington for 60 days of settlement talks. Sullivan moved a status hearing that had been scheduled for Wednesday to Feb. 10.

The lawsuit 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.

It was filed in 1999 by a couple who ranch on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation straddling the North Dakota-South Dakota state line.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said last month that the department was committed to resolving litigation.

Attorneys for both sides had no immediate comment Tuesday.