By Janie Simms Hipp, Colby D. Duren and Erin Parker
Journal of Food Law & Policy: Vol. 14: No. 1, Article 7
Agriculture is, and has always been, important to Indian Country. According to the data collected by the National Agricultural Statistics Service for the most recent Census of Agriculture, there are over 71,9471 American Indian and Alaska Native Farmers and Ranchers, working on more than 57 million acres of land, with a market value of products producing reaching over $3.3 billion—including $1.4 billion in crops and $1.8 billion in livestock and poultry. Indian Country operations are twice the size of non-Native operations, but with half the income and involvement in federal farm security programs. These numbers tell us not only what contributions Indian Country already makes to American agriculture, but also speak to the potential for future opportunities if current operations were expanded, and contemporary federal policy adjusted in a way that facilitates Tribes and individual AIAN operators to more fully take advantage of U.S. Department of Agriculture programming. Food and agriculture production could be a huge economic driver for Tribes, the entirety of Indian Country, and the rural communities in which their communities are found. Production could equal the revenue generated by gaming and because of their isolated location.
In order to realize this potential, we must re-calibrate USDA programs to capitalize on current successes in Indian Country agriculture and agribusiness and expand those opportunities throughout Indian Country, including feeding the people living in our most rural and remote places. Agriculture and agribusiness can create jobs and stabilize economies for Native people who have deep connections to the land on which they live, to farming and ranching, and to the foods they produce every day. In addition, Tribal governments and Tribal communities have always been and are continuing to be the providers of essential governmental services in countless rural, remote, and isolated communities throughout the United States.
This essay focuses on several key provisions and themes that could have the greatest impact to support and grow agriculture and agribusiness in Indian Country if implemented in the 2018 Farm Bill reauthorization.
Read the full article here.
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
USDA Webinars Regarding the Community Connect Grant Program
April 5, 1 pm EDT
April 10, 1 pm EDT
The Rural Utilities Service (RUS) will host webinars focused on the Community Connect Grant Program. These webinars will inform participants about the major eligibility and regulatory requirements of the program and will provide detailed guidance on how to submit a successful application. There will also be time for participants to ask the speakers specific questions about putting together an application.
On March 15, the Community Connect Grant Program’s Notice of Solicitation of Applications (NOSA) was published in the Federal Register. A copy can be found here.
You can register for the April 5 session here and the April 10 session here. We recommend you do this registration early and run a system check to ensure quick access on the day of the webinar.
If the above registration link does not work, please copy & paste https://cc.readytalk.com/r/5pj6gcnhk5hb&eom into your browser for the April 5th session or https://cc.readytalk.com/r/54s0o7ogdupz&eom for the April 10th session.
Questions? Please contact the RUS at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or call (202) 720-0800 with any questions about these events.
Further details can be found in the attached flyer.
The Claneil Foundation is seeking nominations for the 2019 Emerging Leaders Fund cohort. We are looking for emerging, high-potential nonprofit organizations in the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions led by executive directors who think outside of the box and have a thirst for learning.
Each grantee receives $240,000 in unrestricted funding over four years, and is eligible to request up to $10,000 in professional development funds to support its designated leader(s). Ultimately, 2-3 candidates will be selected for the 2019 cohort.
What we are looking for:
Organizations have typically been in existence between 3 – 5 years, and have budgets of less than $1 million. Organizations should be working on the “cutting edge” of one or more of the following issues: education, hunger & nutrition/food system, health & human services, environment.
It only takes a few minutes to nominate!
Simply email me (email@example.com) the leader’s name, organization, location, and a few sentences explaining the reason for your nomination by March 15. If you happen to know the year the organization was founded and its current organizational budget, please include that as well. Self-nominations are not accepted.
Historically, the Claneil Foundation has believed in the power of innovation in the non-profit world as a catalyst for social change. The Emerging Leaders Fund was created to support the critical role that executive directors play in launching and growing early-stage organizations. The Foundation recognizes that these individuals and their organizations face unique internal and external challenges: they devote time and energy to the everyday demands of building an organization while developing new thinking, trying untested approaches and cultivating broader networks.
To provide critical support for these leaders and their organizations, the Foundation awards a four-year unrestricted general operating grant totaling $240,000 to each recipient’s organization and access to a thoughtful, close-knit support network of peers. In addition, each grantee organization has access to $10,000 in professional development funds to support its designated leader(s).
Recipients are selected based on their creative vision, leadership capacity, potential for impact, and commitment to innovation and learning in one or more of the following issue areas: education, hunger & nutrition/food system, health & human services, environment. This grant program is focused primarily on early stage organizations located in the New England and Mid-Atlantic states. Grantees are selected based on nominations from a diverse pool of nominators who represent the foundation, nonprofit and business sectors. We typically receive 70 – 80 nominations each year.
How to nominate
We are accepting nominations for the 2019 cohort until March 15, 2018.
If you have an organization that you would like to nominate, simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and include the name of the organization, its leader(s), location, budget (if known) and a few sentences explaining the reason for your nomination.
We do not accept self-nominations. We ask that all nominations remain confidential.
First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has just published a new report on Native food sovereignty assessment efforts, as well as four new videos dealing with food sovereignty, ranching and agricultural issues.
The report, titled Food Sovereignty Assessments: A Tool to Grow Healthy Native Communities, details some of the outcomes and lessons learned from a project that funded numerous Native American communities in conducting food sovereignty assessments, with the goal of collecting valuable localized data, creating action plans, and eventually moving toward more control over their local food systems for improved health and nutrition, and for the economic well-being of those communities. It is available as a free download from the First Nations Knowledge Center (under the “Nourishing Native Foods & Health” section) at https://firstnations.org/knowledge-center/foods-health. (Please note that if you don’t already have one, you will need to create a free online account to download the report.) The report was authored by First Nations Vice President Raymond Foxworth, with data-collection assistance from consultants John Hendrix, Michelle Desjarlais and Joseph Madera.
In 2016 and 2017, First Nations provided 39 grants totaling nearly $640,000 to Native communities. This allowed these communities to develop and implement efforts to assess their local food systems and establish forward-looking plans designed to transform the future of those systems. Much of their work was conducted using First Nations’ Food Sovereignty Assessment Tool (FSAT), which was first developed in 2004 and significantly updated in 2014. Food sovereignty assessments have been a starting point for many communities as they work to develop mechanisms to increase local food-system control. A community food sovereignty assessment is a community-developed and community-led process for assessing local food-system control. A food sovereignty assessment puts Native communities in the driver’s seat, as it empowers them to identify their own goals, methods and process for data collection, analysis and strategy development.
Some of the grantees specifically featured in the publication are the Chahta Foundation in Durant, Oklahoma; the Nisqually Indian Tribe in Olympia, Washington; the Nebraska Indian Community College in Macy, Nebraska; and the Seneca Nation of Indians in Irving, New York. Most of the participating organizations (56%) were Native-controlled nonprofits or grassroots community groups, while 44% were tribes or tribal departments.
The four new videos, posted on the First Nations YouTube Channel, deal with food sovereignty, ranching and agricultural issues. They feature current and past grantees of First Nations in Arizona, New Mexico and Washington. They were produced for First Nations by Frybread Productions.
“As part of our work under our Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative and other efforts, we think it’s important to document and publicly highlight some of the successful projects that are making good strides in Indian Country,” said A-dae Romero-Briones, First Nations’ Director of Programs for Native Agriculture and Food Systems. “We think these efforts and grantees exemplify some of the great work that is happening at the grassroots level in Native food systems, agriculture, youth programs and general community and economic development.”
The videos are:
Nahata Dziil 14R Ranch, located on the rural Navajo Nation, utilizes community, land and long-cultivated ranching skills through a cooperative business model to provide local beef to community and businesses that serve the Navajo Nation. Where few businesses exist, 14R Ranch has managed to create and maintain a sustainable and responsive business model. This video can be found at https://youtu.be/pchdqKon9Yg.
Ndée Bikíyaa – The People’s Farm, on the White Mountain Apache Reservation, seeks to reconnect the community to its food, traditional lifestyles and, ultimately, a healthier mindset. The People’s Farm is a mentorship organization that is growing young Native American farmers and challenging notions of Native American health. This video can be found at https://youtu.be/2gVDv6NN1mQ.
The Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project is reconnecting food and diets to value systems. The project focuses on activities ranging from breastfeeding to gathering traditional foods to improving diets. This video can be found at https://youtu.be/aDjSLxHoo5E.
The Zuni Youth Enrichment Project focuses on connecting youth to movement and food. It challenges young people to think critically about building community through action and food choice. This video can be found at https://youtu.be/0R9Qo9hTXnU.
About First Nations Development Institute
For more than 37 years, using a three-pronged strategy of educating grassroots practitioners, advocating for systemic change, and capitalizing Indian communities, First Nations has been working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own – be they land, human potential, cultural heritage or natural resources – and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native American communities. First Nations serves Native American communities throughout the United States. For more information, visit www.firstnations.org.
Adae Romero-Briones, First Nations Director of Programs, Native Agriculture & Food Systems
email@example.com or (303) 774-7836 x212
Randy Blauvelt, First Nations Senior Communications Officer
firstname.lastname@example.org or (303) 774-7836 x213