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Economic and dietary health of Native Americans hangs in the balance with 2018 Farm Bill, according to major new report

Economic and dietary health of Native Americans hangs in the balance with 2018 Farm Bill, according to major new report

Most comprehensive assessment ever written of Farm Bill risks and opportunities for tribes, Native American producers, and urban Native American communities lays the foundation for unified advocacy


MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Current efforts by the United States Congress to write the 2018 Farm Bill will have significant consequences for the 5 million Native Americans and Alaskan Natives in the United States. A new tribal report concludes that Native communities must be prepared to better advocate for their interests, defend programs on which their most vulnerable members depend, and look for new ways to achieve greater food sovereignty and food security through increased self-reliance and reform of federal policies.

The report, entitled Regaining Our Future: An Assessment of Risks and Opportunities for Native Communities in the 2018 Farm Bill, is the most comprehensive analysis ever conducted on Farm Bill issues relevant to Indigenous populations in the United States.

In recent years, there has been a growing grassroots movement within Indian Country to reclaim Native foodways and establish better food security. But federal policies alien to Indian Country continue to have an outsized and often detrimental influence on Native nutrition, agriculture, ranching, farming, conservation, trade and forestry.

“Today a food and nutritional health crisis grips most of Indian Country. As Congress prepares to shape the next Farm Bill, there has never been a more critical time for Native Americans to unite to defend our interests,” said Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) Chairman Charles R. Vig. “Tribal governments, Native producers, environmental stewards, and Native community members must work together to involve Congress in helping us solve this crisis.”

One of the largest pieces of domestic legislation, the Farm Bill is historically considered by Congress every five years. It serves as the primary vehicle for developing federal food and agriculture policies, including nutrition, crop insurance, conservation, commodity programs, research and education. The most recent version of the Farm Bill, passed in 2014, included $489 billion in spending.

The SMSC commissioned Regaining Our Future as an initiative of Seeds of Native Health, the tribe’s four-year, $10 million philanthropic campaign to improve Native nutrition and food access. The report was authored by Janie Simms Hipp, director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative (IFAI) at the University of Arkansas School of Law and former senior advisor for tribal relations to Secretary Tom Vilsack at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Colby D. Duren, IFAI policy director and staff attorney and former staff attorney and legislative counsel for the National Congress of American Indians.

“We must be knowledgeable of and engaged in the improvement and development of federal food policy because it directly impacts our lands, our foods, our waters, our natural resources, and our economic development opportunities,” said Hipp. “Regaining Our Future sets the groundwork for tribes to work together from a common understanding and advocate for that most basic of human needs, the ability to feed ourselves in our own food systems with our own foods.”

In researching and writing the report, Hipp and Duren consulted closely with the Intertribal Agriculture Council, the Intertribal Timber Council, and the National Congress of American Indians. While Indian Country has historically not been involved in comprehensive Farm Bill policy discussions, these three organizations have been dedicated to advocating for and correcting problems with federal food and agriculture policy on behalf of Native peoples for decades.

“The Intertribal Agriculture Council has struggled to rally the support of tribes to effectively advocate for greater Native inclusion in previous Farm Bills,” said Ross Racine, executive director of the Intertribal Agriculture Council. “This document will serve as a new foundation for our ongoing efforts, working in partnership with the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, the SMSC’s Seeds of Native Health campaign, the Intertribal Timber Council, and the National Congress of American Indians to ensure well-crafted, effective, and thoughtful agriculture and nutrition policy.”

Regaining Our Future is available for download


About the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is a federally recognized, sovereign Indian tribe located southwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Making its top priority to be a good neighbor, the SMSC is one of the top philanthropists in Minnesota and donates more to charity than any other Indian tribe in America. It also focuses on being a strong community partner and a leader in protecting and restoring natural resources.

About Seeds of Native Health

Seeds of Native Health is the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s philanthropic campaign to improve Native American nutrition and food access. Launched in 2015, the $10 million campaign has provided grants to local communities and funded research, education, and capacity-building efforts. Partners include the American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, AmeriCorps VISTA, Better Way Foundation, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’s Center for Indian Country Development, First Nations Development Institute, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, the Notah Begay III Foundation, the University of Arkansas School of Law’s Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, and the University of Minnesota.

About the University of Arkansas School of Law

Established in 1924, the University of Arkansas School of Law prepares students for success through a challenging curriculum taught by nationally recognized faculty, unique service opportunities and a close-knit community that puts students first. With alumni in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, two territories and 20 countries, it has been ranked among the top 10 “Values in Legal Education” by the National Jurist magazine for four consecutive years and is among the top 46 public law schools, according to U.S. News and World Report.

About the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative

Established in 2013, the University of Arkansas School of Law Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative is the first of its kind nationally, focusing on enhancing food, agriculture, health and wellness, and business and economic development; youth and professional education in food and agriculture; strategic planning and technical assistance, research and publications in the areas of health, nutrition policy, traditional knowledge; financial markets and asset management; and tribal governance, law and policy.

The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative is a strategic partner in the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s Seeds of Native Health campaign. With a leading gift from Seeds of Native Health, IFAI is conducting a landmark project to develop a long-needed, comprehensive set of model food and agriculture codes to be customized and adopted by tribal nations. Additionally, the SMSC and IFAI are partnering with the Corporation for National and Community Service to create a cadre of 21 “Native Food Sovereignty Fellows.” IFAI is recruiting, training, deploying and supervising the work of these VISTA volunteers in 10 tribal communities.


Media contact

Sara Thatcher


Applications for VISTA positions now open!

Applications for VISTA positions now open!

Native Food Sovereignty Fellows positions available!


The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative (IFAI), with generous support by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) through its Seeds of Native Health campaign, announce the opening of up to 20 VISTA positions available at up to 10 tribal governments and tribal communities throughout the United States.

VISTA is an important and vital community and public service program operated by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

This unique partnership between VISTA, the SMSC, and IFAI allows for coordination of these placements and the creation of a cohort of Native Food Sovereignty Fellows. Fellows will work in teams placed in Native American communities to contribute to and assist in efforts focused on food sovereignty, food systems, and tribal economies that build opportunities in food and agriculture.

The application period is now open. All those interested can apply directly through the AmeriCorps VISTA website, which explains the application process.VISTA positions are paid positions providing benefits, educational benefits upon successful completion of the assignment, living and housing assistance, child care (if applicable) and related support. VISTA members who are “Native Food Sovereignty Fellows” will work closely with IFAI and receive ongoing training and assistance from IFAI to augment their local work.

Space is limited, and we are looking to fill positions quickly – Apply now!

If you have any questions, please email Janie Hipp at, Director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative.

USDA Seeks Applications for Community Development Grants

USDA Seeks Applications for Community Development Grants

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is inviting applications for grants to support economic development in rural communities.

“These grants will support partnerships between community development groups and rural communities to develop essential facilities and create jobs and business opportunities,” USDA Rural Development Acting Deputy Undersecretary Roger Glendenning said.

USDA is making grants available under the Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) program to strengthen the rural economy. Qualified intermediary organizations receiving RCDI grants will provide technical assistance and training to help nonprofit organizations and communities develop their capacity to undertake housing, community facilities or economic development projects. Applicants must have capacity-building experience for these types of projects and must provide matching funds at least equal to the RCDI grant. Grants range from $50,000 to $250,000.

Eligible recipients are nonprofit organizations, low-income rural communities or federally recognized tribes. RCDI grants are not provided directly to businesses or individuals.

Examples of eligible projects include homeownership education, minority business entrepreneurship, strategic community planning or assistance to access alternative funding sources.  A grant awarded to Habitat for Humanity Virginia in 2016 shows how the RCDI program is helping rural communities. The organization used a $150,000 grant to train Habitat affiliates across Virginia to rehabilitate homes as an alternative to its traditional model of building them from the ground up. Increasing the capacity of Habitat affiliates to rehabilitate dwellings will greatly increase their ability to serve more low-income families in Virginia’s rural communities.

For more information on how to apply, see page 24281 of the May 26 Federal Register. The deadline to submit paper applications is July 25, 2017.

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; homeownership; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit

BLOOMBERG: There Aren’t Enough Slaughterhouses to Support Farm-to-Table

BLOOMBERG: There Aren’t Enough Slaughterhouses to Support Farm-to-Table

Sellers of high-end pork, beef, and chicken agree: there simply aren’t enough facilities to humanely and safely kill their animals.



Everything at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., has a story. Servers, chefs, and farmers at the restaurant, which was recently ranked No. 11 in the world, are there to tell it to anyone with a few hundred dollars, several hours, and a reservation.

Depending on the day’s menu, the braised pork belly may come from red wattle pigs, prized by Chef Dan Barber for their high fat content. At one point during a recent meal, a diner’s candle was extinguished and poured over plates as a sauce, because—surprise: The candle was made of beef tallow. It’s likely the only fine dining establishment where a trip to the manure shed is as coveted as dessert. All are part and parcel of the Blue Hill at Stone Barns experience.

Farm-to-table restaurants usually skip over just one small detail during these dramatic narratives. It’s arguably the most important step in the process, but few people want to think about slaughter when they’re cutting into their dinner.

It’s also often cited as the most difficult. Despite ever-increasing customer demand for noncommodity meat, there aren’t enough slaughterhouses to keep up. It’s a major hitch in the supply chain—keeping supplies down, prices up, and making the already grueling job of farming even harder.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, New York. Photographer: Cole Wilson/Bloomberg

Phil Haynes is the assistant livestock manager at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, the open-to-the-public farm and education hub that supplies many of Blue Hill’s ingredients. On a freezing March morning, he awoke before sunrise and drove four red wattles about an hour and 15 minutes to Dealaman Enterprises, Inc. in Warren, N.J. With the help of a Dealaman staffer, Haynes led the animals into a dark barn filled with the rank odor of fresh manure, before heading back to work. He’d make the same journey the next day, only then he’d return to Stone Barns with the carcasses.

Between Haynes’s trips, the animals met their fate in a small room so clean and brightly lit that a single smear of guts on the white wall seems out of place, though neat piles of them sit on the floor. In a process that takes about 30 minutes per pig, the animal is stunned, slaughtered, scalded, and eviscerated. Various innards are sorted appropriately—livers on a spike, lungs in a garbage pail.

Even at Blue Hill, which exemplifies the aspirational closed-loop, farm-to-table meal, slaughter of pigs and sheep requires a trip off premises. Under USDA regulations, farm staff must take these animals to a federally inspected facility to serve it at the restaurant or sell it at the Stone Barns store, though an exemption for small amounts of poultry staying in the state allows them to slaughter their chickens, turkeys, and ducks in an on-site, state-certified facility.

Stone Barns is more fortunate than many other farms, said Jack Algiere, the Center’s farm director. The slaughterhouse is “very close, considering,” he says. Others are forced to “drive two, three, four hours for processing.”

Phil Haynes feeds the farm’s heritage breed pigs. Photographer: Cole Wilson/Bloomberg

While the situation varies from species to species and state to state, sellers of noncommodity pork, beef, and chicken agree: there simply aren’t enough facilities to humanely and safely kill their animals.

The numbers are stark. In 1967 there were 9,627 livestock (cattle, calf, hog and sheep) slaughtering establishments in the U.S. That same year, Congress passed the Wholesome Meat Act, requiring producers to use a USDA-inspected facility if they sell meat across state lines. A mass consolidation of the meat industry followed. Today, commodity meat is dominated by large companies. Just four companies sell about 85% of America’s beef and the pork and chicken markets are similarly controlled by huge corporations. By 2016, there were only about 1,100 federally inspected meat and poultry slaughterhouses in the country.

But customers are increasingly demanding free-range meat from smaller producers that, largely because of the lack of slaughterhouse, aren’t able to supply it fast or cheap enough. Volume sales for free-range meat, for example, was up 26.9 percent in 2016, while conventional was down 0.5 percent, according to data from Nielsen Fresh.

Just a handful of large slaughterhouses handle a disproportionate amount of that American meat: Of those approximately 1,100 facilities, 215 large slaughter establishments (defined as 500 or more employees) produce about 75 percent to 90 percent of the country’s volume. At the Smithfield plant in Tar Heel, N.C., for example, approximately 30,000 to 34,000 hogs are reportedly slaughtered each day. At the other end of the spectrum is Dealaman, the only federally inspected hog slaughterhouse in New Jersey, which processes a paltry 1,200 pigs a week.

The explanations for the struggles of the small slaughterhouses vary but inevitably come down to two interrelated factors—regulations that favor large meatpackers and uneven enforcement of those regulations.

The federal rules for packing houses are, understandably, complex, and adherence can be expensive. But they are essentially the same whether a facility is slaughtering 100 head each day or 10,000. Many argue that laws created to help inspectors monitor large facilities are ill-suited to small ones. “There is no question in my mind that you can have a safe, operating small custom house without having the same regulations that you have for a large packer,” said J. Dudley Butler, the former head of the USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, who actively worked to diversify the meat industry during his tenure. “That’s a terrible regulatory burden on small packing houses.”

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service offers a small plant help desk and help with regulations and trainings, but smaller operators still complain about not being in the know, because they don’t have the resources. “We simply don’t have the capacity to send a guy to every trade seminar to learn how to game the system,” says Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and co-owner of the processing plant T&E Meats.

Chickens rest under a mobile coop at Stone Barns. Photographer: Cole Wilson/Bloomberg

Smaller slaughterhouse operators commonly make claims of disparate treatment and even intimidation by inspectors. Large establishments rack up violations as well—their noncompliance rate is actually a bit higher than that of their smaller counterparts. But smaller facilities see a disproportionate amount of enforcement. In April 2017, seven enforcement actions were issued, according to an FSIS spokesperson—and five went to small and very small plants. In other words, slaughterhouses that produce a maximum of 25 percent of the country’s beef, pork, and chicken received 71 percent of the month’s enforcement actions.

The USDA says it’s just doing its job. “USDA’s FSIS makes no exceptions when it comes to the safety of our food supply and protecting the health of American families,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Our inspectors take appropriate regulatory actions to ensure that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry and egg products is safe and wholesome, regardless of the size of the establishment.”

As consumers clamor for small-scale meat, producers are racing to provide it, but the lack of slaughterhouses hinders growth.

“This is my bottleneck in my company today,” says Ariane Daguin, owner of high-end meat purveyor D’Artagnan. Daguin insists on approving not just the farms but also the slaughter facilities processing her meat, which she says can be a particular challenge. She works with a range of heritage breeds whose varied sizes and morphologies need more flexibility than a typical, highly mechanized assembly line setup can offer. When the Pennsylvania plant that had been processing her Amish-raised chickens went out of business, she had to reconfigure the whole supply chain, eventually substituting birds raised and slaughtered in the Midwest to fill the gap. “Today we are back with the same [Amish farmers],” she says. “But it took me two and a half years to find a replacement.”

Scheduling is another challenge. Slaughterhouses often require six months notice. The independent, USDA slaughterhouses that are still in business are often booked solid, and cancellations for such things as illness or poor weather can be costly. It can take months to get a new appointment, forcing farmers to devote more time and resources to the animals in question, which cuts into their already slim margins. “What was a profit now becomes a loss,” says Jon McConaughy, co-founder of Double Brook Farm in Hopewell, N.J., who built his own on-site slaughterhouse for approximately $350,000 after concluding it was the most economically feasible option.

Berkshire pigs feed in the pen at Stone Barns. Photographer: Cole Wilson/Bloomberg

Finding a local slaughterhouse is not just a matter of time and convenience. Small-scale farmers with heritage animals pride themselves on the higher animal welfare standards they say produce superior meat. After devoting months to carefully raising rare breeds on customized diets, farmers are loathe to end the animals’ lives at facilities that may mistreat them. Farmers say they will travel longer distances for better facilities they trust more. The last slaughterhouse Stone Barns used, Haynes said, was mistreating the animals. “I’m not working with those guys anymore. They don’t respect us, don’t respect the animals.”

It’s not just a compassion issue—transportation of livestock is often cited as a major stressor for animals and associated with lower meat quality, and the last hours or minutes in an animal’s life can undo months of effort.

Facilities that are better for animals are often likely to be better for workers, too. Unlike the large processing houses, where workers’ repetitive motions often lead to carpal tunnel syndrome and other injuries, Dealaman’s workers move around, trading positions and tasks, one minute gutting, the next sweeping, the next scalding. This is not uncommon in small operations, but it also adds to the price of meat.

Such a flexible workplace requires more higher-skilled laborers, so smaller operations often offer a higher hourly wage than large plants. “We take care of our folks, pay way above the minimum wage, in the $20-to-$22-per-hour range,” said Salatin. That is significantly higher than the $13/hour average wage for a slaughterhouse worker in the US.

In 2015, Republican Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Democrat Chellie Pingree of Maine (both farmers) introduced the PRIME [Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption] Act in the House of Representatives. The bill would allow farmers to sell chops, steaks, and other cuts of beef and pork processed in state-regulated custom slaughterhouses as long as the sales stayed within state lines.

“My wife just drove three hours to pick up three steers,” said Massie, who raises grass-fed crossbreeds of Angus and Wagyu cattle on his farm. “The frustrating thing is that she passed a processor three miles from our house that can do the exact same thing, but it’s not a USDA facility. ”

The bill faces stiff opposition from strange bedfellows: the Big Meat lobbyists at the North American Meat Institute and consumer group Food & Water Watch.

“Despite what these advocates want to believe, bacteria don’t distinguish between large and small facilities,” says Eric Mittenthal of the North American Meat Institute. “To have the safest food system possible, the same food safety standards should be followed by everyone.”

Adam Kaye, vice president of culinary affairs, butchers a Berkshire pork leg at the Blue Hill restaurant. Photographer: Cole Wilson/Bloomberg

“We don’t think the PRIME Act really deals with the safety concerns,” says Tony Corbo, senior lobbyist for the food campaign at Food & Water Watch, largely because custom slaughterhouses must meet state regulations but do not have inspectors on site at all times.

Some say that’s inadequate. “At the state levels, the quality of the kill, process, and safety, frankly, is not sufficient,” Daguin says. “You do need regulations, but the regulations in force are the wrong ones.”

Massie argues that these smaller scale, state-regulated custom slaughterhouses provide more traceability and less commingling of products from different sources, which ultimately makes them safer. Federal regulations, he said, “have failed to protect the public from mass recalls and very large outbreaks of food-borne illnesses.”

Advocates also point to the recent scandal around Brazilian meat giant JBS SA. In March, Brazilian authorities announced an investigation into evidence that the company bribed government officials to allow the export of its tainted meat.  While the USDA says no beef from the implicated facilities has reached the U.S., and FSIS has stepped up its inspections on imports from the country, PRIME Act advocates ask why Brazil has better access to US markets than many American ranchers do.

The PRIME Act doesn’t require allowing sales of these meats; it simply gives states the authority to regulate such sales themselves. But Massie blames the industry for wanting to keep the status quo. “There aren’t any big moneyed interests in Congress supporting this bill, and if you want to see what’s happening in Congress, generally you should follow the money,” Massie says. “When you dig into the opposition, a lot of times you’ll find it’s funded by one of the meatpackers.”

Agribusiness spent more than $133 million on lobbying in 2015, but Mittenthal says “zero dollars and resources” were expended by NAMI on this issue.

Massie plans to reintroduce the bill in the next few months and hopes its bipartisan nature will help move it along. “Republicans like that we’re reducing federal regulations, and the Democrats like that it will enable production and consumption of local food,” he said.

For now, though, he and his wife will keep having to make the three-hour trek each way to the slaughterhouse. “That’s not very environmentally friendly or efficient,” he said.


Senate Indian Affairs Committee Advances Bill to Boost Economic Development

WASHINGTON – Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman John Hoeven (R-ND) today announced the committee’s passage of S.1116, the Indian Community Economic Enhancement Act of 2017, legislation he introduced with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

“Indian businesses and communities have long faced unnecessary barriers to economic development,” said Senator Hoeven. “This bill will stimulate growth by improving access to capital, increasing opportunities for Native businesses, and encouraging investment in our tribal communities. These updates are important for empowering Native entrepreneurs and creating good paying jobs in Indian Country. I am glad the committee acted expeditiously today to advance this measure.”

“Many Indian reservations across my home state of Arizona and the western United States continue to struggle with high unemployment rates and few business opportunities. We must do more to change this,” said Senator McCain. “This legislation addresses these serious challenges by expanding key economic development services for Native Americans who aspire to open a business on their own on tribal lands. I thank the committee for passing our bill today and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to support this effort to ensure the future success of Native American entrepreneurs and tribally owned businesses.”

The bill will spur economic growth and increase access to capital in Indian communities by amending and improving existing law, including:

·         the Native American Business Development, Trade Promotion, and Tourism Act of 2000;

·         the Native American Programs Act of 1974; and

·         the Buy Indian Act.

S.1116 amends existing law in the following ways:

Native American Business Development, Trade Promotion, and Tourism Act of 2000:

  • Requires coordination between the Secretaries of Commerce, Interior, and Treasury to develop initiatives encouraging investment in Indian communities.
  • Elevates the Director of Indian programs in the Department of Commerce and authorize the funding for operations.
  • Makes permanent the waiver of the requirement for Native CDFIs to provide a matching cost share for assistance received by the Treasury CDFI.

Native American Programs Act:

  • Reauthorizes the economic development programs.
  • Prioritizes applications and technical assistance for building tribal court systems and code development for economic development, supporting CDFIs, and developing master plans for community and economic development.

Buy Indian Act:

  • Facilitates the use of this Act whereby the BIA and IHS use Indian businesses for procurement and require more accountability in implementing this Act.


A previous iteration of the bill was introduced in the 114th Congress by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). It was considered and passed by the committee. The legislation is based on input from Indian tribes, tribal organizations and businesses.


DOI Secretary Zinke to attend NCAI Mid Year Conference

WASHINGTON, D.C. | U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is confirmed to attend the National Congress of American Indians 2017 Mid Year Conference & Marketplace at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., held from Monday, June 12 to Thursday, June 15, 2017.

“We are looking forward to hosting Secretary Zinke during NCAI Mid Year,” said NCAI President Brian Cladoosby. “This year’s theme ‘Sovereign Infrastructure: Building our Communities through our Values’ is an important conversation we will continue to build upon with the Department of the Interior and the Administration in the years to come.”

“It is a great honor to accept the invitation to speak at NCAI’s Mid Year Conference,” said Zinke. “This will give tribal leaders and I an opportunity to discuss ways to empower the front lines of tribal communities.  I am a supporter of building a stronger government-to-government relationship that will reaffirm tribal sovereignty, self-determination and self-governance in Indian Country.”

As the fifty-second U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Zinke leads more than 70,000 employees who supervise 20 percent of the nation’s lands, including national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges and other public lands. The Department of the Interior (DOI) oversees the responsible development of conventional and renewable energy supplies on public lands and waters; is the largest supplier and manager of water in the 17 Western states; and upholds trust responsibilities to the 567 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes.

Prior to his position as DOI Secretary, Zinke represented the state of Montana in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2014 to 2016, and in the Montana State Senate from 2009 to 2011. Secretary Zinke is a fifth-generation Montanan and former U.S. Navy SEAL Commander, in which he spent 23 years as a U.S. Navy SEAL officer.

Pre-register today for press credentialing using our form here:

On-site press credentialing takes place on Tuesday, June 13, 2017 and Wednesday, June 14, 2017 from 7:30 AM EST – 5:00 PM EST.  Credentialed press will have access to all plenary sessions, as well as those sessions noted for press access on the agenda.

Please note all press are required to wear press badges at all times and are asked to please announce yourself to the moderator of each session you plan on attending.

For additional information, please view NCAI’s 2017 Mid Year Draft Agenda here or contact NCAI Communications Associate Erin Weldon with any questions at


About The National Congress of American Indians:

Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit

Native American Nutrition conference seeks abstracts, scholarship applications

Native American Nutrition conference seeks abstracts, scholarship applications

Second Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition

September 18-20, 2017

Mystic Lake Casino Hotel


Join us for this annual conference that brings together tribal officials, researchers, practitioners, and others to discuss the current state of Indigenous and academic scientific knowledge about Native nutrition and food science, and identify new areas of work.

Abstracts for oral and poster presentations for the Second Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition must be submitted by 5 p.m. (central) on Friday, June 16, 2017. 


Click here to submit an abstract.


A limited number of registration and lodging scholarships are available for the conference. Priority will be given to people who are or who intend to be in a position to directly improve nutrition and health in Native communities.

Click here to apply for a scholarship.


Conference topic areas include:

  • Decolonizing food and nutrition sciences
  • Sustainable development for Indigenous food systems
  • Indigenous evaluation frameworks
  • Successfully translating research into practice

The conference will also include skill-building workshops for researchers and practitioners on topics such as:

  • How to document the traditional food system in your community
  • What is research and why do we need it?
  • Human subject protection in research
  • Working with vulnerable populations from infancy through old age
  • Practical program and research evaluation methods
  • Best practices in creating appropriate nutrition education materials and sharing of materials

Schedule at a glance

  • Sunday, September 17 | Reception: 7-9 p.m.
  • Monday, September 18 | Conference: 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Monday, September 18 | Evening reception: 6-10 p.m.
  • Tuesday, September 19 | Conference: 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (optional tours in the evening)
  • Wednesday, September 20 | Conference: 7:30 a.m.-2:15 p.m.

Register NOW for “So You Think You’re Exempt?” webinar

Many Native American farmers, ranchers, and food operations within tribal jurisdictions conduct business with the assumption that their activities are protected under the sovereign rights of their tribe. While this may be true for some activities, with food safety compliance it certainly may not be the case. This is an individual farm-by-farm, farm business-by-farm business, ranch-by-ranch determination as there are no “overall exemptions” for Tribal farms, ranches, and food businesses. This session will cover the importance of food safety certification in ALL types of tribal food operations and the potential liability that Native farmers and food businesses face if they choose to ignore FSMA compliance or believe incorrectly they are exempt when they are not. Please join us to review the essential information necessary to protect your family, your products, and your business.

“Our farmers and food producers in Indian Country are not exempt from food safety regulations,” IFAI Director Janie Hipp said. “That decision is based on a deep analysis of what you are growing, where it is marketed, where and who is your end consumer of the food, and other factors.  People may not want to hear it, but if your food makes someone sick, and the food is traced back to you, you may be responsible for a series of required events that you aren’t prepared to do.  Tribal sovereignty may not protect you. All these issues and many more will be discussed at this webinar.”


Register NOW for this critical food safety training.


Thursday, June 15, 2 – 4 pm Central

“So You Think You’re Exempt?”



There are more webinars in this series, please visit our website to register for all remaining webinars. All presentations are free and open to the public. Many of the presentations use Produce Safety Alliance approved materials and serve as an important preparation for attending in-person events.

If you you have any questions, please contact Food Safety Coordinator Sandy Martini at



Interior releases FY2018 Budget in Brief

Interior releases FY2018 Budget in Brief

FY2018 Interior Budget in Brief

Census of Agriculture Countdown Begins

Census of Agriculture Countdown Begins



WASHINGTON – America’s farmers and ranchers will soon have the opportunity to strongly represent agriculture in their communities and industry by taking part in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census, to be mailed at the end of this year, is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches, and those who operate them.


“The Census of Agriculture remains the only source of uniform, comprehensive, and impartial agriculture data for every county in the nation,” said NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer. “As such, census results are relied upon heavily by those who serve farmers and rural communities, including federal, state and local governments, agribusinesses, trade associations, extension educators, researchers, and farmers and ranchers themselves.”


The Census of Agriculture highlights land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures, and other topics. The 2012 Census of Agriculture revealed that over three million farmers operated more than two million farms, spanning over 914 million acres. This was a four percent decrease in the number of U.S. farms from the previous census in 2007. However, agriculture sales, income, and expenses increased between 2007 and 2012. This telling information and thousands of other agriculture statistics are a direct result of responses to the Census of Agriculture.


“Today, when data are so important, there is strength in numbers,” said Hamer. “For farmers and ranchers, participation in the 2017 Census of Agriculture is their voice, their future, and their opportunity to shape American agriculture – its policies, services and assistance programs – for years to come.”


Producers who are new to farming or did not receive a Census of Agriculture in 2012 still have time to sign up to receive the 2017 Census of Agriculture report form by visiting and clicking on the ‘Make Sure You Are Counted’ button through June. NASS defines a farm as any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year (2017).


For more information about the 2017 Census of Agriculture and to see how census data are used, visit or call (800) 727-9540.




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