Native American leaders hail 2018 Farm Bill as a 'historic milestone'

Photo courtesy: Adele Payman

Tribal governments and Native producers win new access to and parity in USDA programs

News Release

Native Farm Bill Coalition

The leaders of the Native Farm Bill Coalition yesterday applauded the enactment of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, citing its 63 provisions relating to Native American communities and producers.

“The number and significance of Native American-related provisions in the new Farm Bill is unprecedented,” said Ross Racine, executive director of the Intertribal Agriculture Council and co-chair of the Native Farm Bill Coalition. “Congress has listened to Indian Country as never before and delivered on many of our requests.”

Passed by overwhelmingly bipartisan margins in the Senate and House last week and expected to be signed into law by President Donald J. Trump tomorrow, the 2018 Farm Bill marks a new high watermark of federal focus on and investment in Native agricultural production, rural infrastructure, economic development, conservation, and forestry. It also safeguards vitally important nutrition assistance programs on which many Native Americans depend.

“This Farm Bill acknowledges the fundamental sovereignty and competence of tribal governments far more than previous Farm Bills,” said Keith B. Anderson, vice-chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and co-chair of the Native Farm Bill Coalition. “It gives tribes greater control over our food systems and accords our tribal producers new parity in access to USDA programs.”

Racine and Anderson credited the efforts of the Coalition’s 170 member tribes, Native organizations, and allies with elevating awareness in Congress about inequities in federal policy and the pressing needs of Native communities. They repeated the Coalition’s thanks to congressional leaders, members of the agriculture committees, and the Trump Administration for their responsiveness to the Coalition’s support for these Indian Country provisions.

The Coalition, launched in October 2017, will remain active in 2019 to work with Secretary Sonny Perdue and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the implementation of the new tribal authorities and access under the Farm Bill. It will also continue to educate policymakers on Native nutritional and agricultural issues in the next Congress, assisting in oversight activities and urging Congress to further expand its recognition of tribal self-determination authority in USDA programs.

A full list of Native provisions in the Farm Bill may be viewed here. Highlights include the following:

  • Conservation: Parity and Support for Tribal Producers
    • Requires the Secretary of Agriculture to enter into alternative funding agreements with tribes and tribal producers in both the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
  • Nutrition: Supporting Tribal Self-Governance and Management of the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
    • Includes a new $5 million demonstration project authorizing tribes to purchase food for the FDPIR under “638” tribal self-determination contracts
    • Adjusts the FDPIR matching requirements and funding limitations to reduce the burden of administering FDPIR so that economically disadvantaged tribes may reach more households in need of assistance
      • 20 percent tribal match; waiver of match to enable full USDA funding required for tribes with economic hardships; and ability to use other federal funding to reach the match requirement
    • Allows for two-year carryover funding for FDPIR
    • Adds “regionally grown” to the traditional foods provision purchase provision for FDPIR
  • Forestry: Self-Governance and Parity for Healthy Forestry Management
    • Establishes a Tribal Self-Governance Demonstration Project for management of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands adjacent to Indian lands under the Tribal Forest Protection Act
    • Makes tribal governments eligible to exercise Good Neighbor Authority for forestry management agreements with states and USDA
  • Rural Development: Building Infrastructure and Economic Development Opportunities
    • Provides refinancing authority for some USDA Rural Development programs currently within the Substantially Underserved Trust Areas (SUTA) designation
    • Tribal priority, inclusion and access to broadband programs, including the community connect program, to build infrastructure and economic development opportunities in Indian Country
    • Creates a permanent tribal technical service and assistance office across all USDA Rural Development funding authorities
    • Reauthorizes and expands eligibility of tribal consortia and Alaska Native Villages for a water system infrastructure program
    • Maintains funding for the Tribal College and University Essential Community Facilities program
  • Research: Inclusion and Parity for Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs)
    • Adds 1994 Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) as eligible for the McIntire-Stennis Forestry program capacity funding
    • Reauthorization of support for TCUs, updating the 1994 TCUs list adding a new tribal college, updating the name of another TCU, and creating parity for access to Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR) and the Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP)
    • Creates a Native American student scholarship fund for tribal students who attend land grant universities and colleges
  • Trade: Increased Opportunities and Access to Overseas Markets
    • Increases opportunities for tribes and tribal producers to participate in international U.S. trade delegations
  • Horticulture/Specialty Crops: Support for Traditional and Local Foods
    • Makes tribes eligible to participate in Local Agriculture Market Program to help tribes grow, process and market Native foods
  • Commodity Title: Support for Tribal Producers
    • Adds tribes and tribal organizations as specifically eligible under the livestock disaster programs
  • Credit: Improving Access to Credit for Tribal Producers
    • Requires a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on access to credit issues in Indian Country
  • Miscellaneous Title: Upholding the Trust Responsibility
    • Maintains the Office of Tribal Relations within the Office of the Secretary to report directly to the Secretary of Agriculture
    • Establishes a new Tribal Advisory Committee through the Office of Tribal Relations to provide advice to the Secretary on tribal-related issues and policies
    • Legalizes hemp farming and authorizes new state and tribal plans to self-regulate, develop and expand hemp production; also provides technical assistance to tribes and requires that states permit a tribe to transport across a state hemp that is lawfully produced under this Act
    • Provides additional tribal government and producers eligibility and permanent baseline funding for the combined Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) program for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers
    • Codifies and expands Tribal Promise Zone program authority to bring greater focus to federal investments in tribal communities in ways that stimulate local economic development
    • Makes tribes eligible to participate in new National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program
  • Additional Tribal-Specific Provisions Supporting Parity and Inclusion for Tribes and Tribal Producers
    • Authorizes micro-loans for local foods in food insecure areas and makes tribes eligible

About the Native Farm Bill Coalition

The Native Farm Bill Coalition is an umbrella organization formed in 2017 to assist its members in advocating for Native American interests in the 2018 Farm Bill and beyond. It represents more than 170 members, including sovereign Native American nations, intertribal organizations, Native nonprofits, and other organizations. It was organized and is led by the Intertribal Agriculture Council, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community through its Seeds of Native Health campaign, the National Congress of American Indians, and, as its research partner, the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative of the University of Arkansas.

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