Every Farm Counts
By Zach Ducheneaux
Intertribal Agriculture Council
In spite of notable efforts on the part of the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and others, American Indians continue to be one of the most underrepresented groups in the Census of Agriculture. The number of American Indian producers participating in the Census has increased tremendously since the questionnaire became the responsibility of the USDA in 1997, and especially since 2007 when every American Indian farm and ranch began reporting individually. But we still have a lot of work to do to get everyone represented in the data.
Indian Country is faced with many challenges created by policy – some of which was created without our input. When federal, state, and local farm policy and programs are contemplated, NASS data are what policymakers reference to inform their decisions. Programs developed based on crops grown, conservation practices used, and even agri-finance opportunities can all be adversely affected if we don’t tell our story through participation in the Ag Census. If we, as a community, do not fill out the Census of Agriculture, the data will not reflect our numbers or our needs and that could have a negative economic impact on our communities.
A stark example of this adverse impact lies in the 2012 Census data which showed that the 56,092 farms and ranches operated by 71,947 Native Americans sold a total of $3.24 billion in ag products raised on 57.3 million acres. The average size of a farm or ranch operated by Native Americans (1,021 acres) was over 200 percent larger than the national farm average (434 acres) while receiving only 67 percent ($6,698) of the amount of farm program payments received by others ($9,925). When you contemplate the per acre disparity, you can clearly see the reason we need to be more active.
Another example of the importance of the Ag Census is demonstrated by what it doesn’t count. As a result of the failure to recognize subsistence production, tens of thousands of our Alaskan Native relatives go totally uncounted. As a result, there is virtually no mention of subsistence agriculture in federal farm policy.
The Census of Agriculture aims to be a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches, and their operators, and remains the only source of uniform, comprehensive, and impartial agriculture data available at the state, county, and Tribal level. Embrace the opportunity to be heard. Take advantage of one of the important ways to help our communities. Your response will provide data that will absolutely be used to make decisions on our behalf, like funding for loans, conservation efforts, disaster relief (e.g. drought), and education.
The future is ours to shape. It is not too late to complete your 2017 Census of Agriculture. The paper questionnaire is due by June 15. However, the Ag Census can be completed online at www.agcensus.usda.gov through July. For questions about or assistance with your form, call (888) 424-7828.
Department is Partnering with Native Community Development Financial Institutions
WASHINGTON, May 31, 2018 – Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is launching a pilot program to increase homeownership opportunities on Tribal lands.
“To thrive, rural America needs a creative and forward-thinking partner in USDA,” Hazlett said. “Under Secretary Perdue’s leadership, USDA is harnessing innovation so we can be a better, more effective partner to Tribal communities in building their futures.”
USDA is partnering with two Native Community Development Financial Institutions (NCDFIs) that have extensive experience working in Native American communities. The Department will loan $800,000 each to Mazaska Owecaso Otipit Financial and to Four Bands Community Fund. The organizations will relend the money to eligible homebuyers for mortgages on South Dakota and some North Dakota Tribal trust lands. Mazaska Owecaso Otipit Financial and Four Bands Community Fund also will service the mortgage loans after they are made. USDA is providing the funding through the Single Family Housing Direct Loan program.
Each NCDFI will contribute $200,000 for mortgages in the pilot program.
USDA has helped nearly 4 million rural residents purchase homes since passage of the Housing Act of 1949. However, homeownership rates on Tribal lands historically have been significantly lower than those for other communities.
Both NCDFIs have deep ties to the local communities and will be able to reach potential homebuyers more effectively than USDA and other lenders. Mazaska Owecaso Otipit Financial is located on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and creates homeownership opportunities for the members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Four Bands Community Fund, headquartered in Eagle Butte, S.D., provides financial products to businesses as well as home mortgages in South Dakota and North Dakota. Part of its service area includes the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.
The pilot program will begin this summer. USDA Rural Development’s state office in Huron, S.D., will oversee the initiative.
In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.
To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.
Release No. 0118.18
Jay Fletcher (202) 690-0498
Weldon Freeman (202) 690-1384