The clock is ticking on negotiations to settle another mammoth discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this one brought by Native American farmers and ranchers.

The class action, filed in Washington, D.C., federal court in November 1999, accuses the department of denying thousands of Native American farmers and ranchers the same opportunity to obtain farm loans that it routinely gave to white farmers. The discrimination allegedly caused the loss of billions of dollars in credit over a 25-year period. The suit also charges the department with failure to accept and investigate many civil rights complaints filed by those farmers and ranchers.

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