Inclusion of Native American-related provisions can provide new opportunities for tribal governments and Native producers to address conservation, rural development, credit, food access, and dietary health in Indian Country

The member tribes and tribal organizations of the Native Farm Bill Coalition today praise the U.S. Senate’s passage of its version of the 2018 Farm Bill, and express their great appreciation to the bipartisan group of United States senators who worked to ensure that measures which are important to Native American tribes and producers were included to make this historic investment in Indian Country food and agriculture production, infrastructure, and economic development.

Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) worked with Indian Affairs Chairman John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) and Vice-Chairman Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), along with many other senators of both parties, to address the critical needs of Indian Country relating to nutrition assistance, tribal access to and parity in USDA programs, forestry, rural development needs, and conservation. 

The intense efforts on behalf of Indian Country issues, by dozens of senators and their hard-working staff, were remarkable, as was the outcome. The following provisions of historic significance to Indian Country are included in the bill:

  • Key refinancing provisions for Rural Development programs currently within the Substantially Underserved Trust Areas (SUTA) designation
  • Creation of a Tribal Advisory Council to USDA
  • Reauthorization of support for Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU), adding two tribal colleges previously excluded and creating parity for access to additional programs
  • Adjusting the match requirements and funding limitations to reduce the administrative burden for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) so that economically disadvantaged tribes may reach more households in need of assistance
  • Authorizing a new $5 million demonstration project to allow some tribes to purchase some FDPIR food under self-determination (“638”) contracts
  • Allowing administrative funding for FDPIR to remain available for two years
  • Provides tribes the ability to use federal funding (and Indian Health Service funding) to meet the matching requirement in the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program
  • Makes tribes eligible to participate in local food programs to help tribes grow, process and market Native foods
  • Expanding alternative funding arrangements for tribes utilizing key conservation funding programs
  • Providing TCUs with parity in McIntire-Stennis Act funding eligibility
  • Authorizing tribes, like other governments, to exercise Good Neighbor Authority in forestry management agreements
  • Making tribes eligible for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers program funding
  • Codifying community connect for tribes and other underserved communities
  • Creating a Native American student scholarship fund for tribal students who attend land grant universities and colleges
  • Establishing a Tribal Technical Assistance Office at Rural Development
  • Legalizing hemp farming legal and creating new state and tribal plans to develop and expand hemp production
  • Increases opportunities for tribes to participate in international U.S. trade delegations
  • Adds tribes and tribal organizations as specifically eligible under the livestock disaster programs
  • Creates a Tribal Promise Zone to focus USDA resources into a tribal community to stimulate local economic development
  • Requires a Government Accountability Office to conduct a study of foods frequently marketed as Native products
  • Authorizes micro-loans for local foods in food insecure areas
  • Additional provisions supporting food and agriculture production in Indian Country