Policy Brief – March 5, 2024

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Policy Brief Summary

This week, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture  (USDA) Tom Vilsack will be traveling to the Osage Nation in Oklahoma to meet with the Tribe regarding Rural Development (RD) programs and access. 

There are several Congressional committee hearings. In the House Natural Resource Committee, the Indian and Insular Affairs Subcommittee is holding a hearing on Advancing Tribal Self-Determination: Examining Bureau of Indian Affairs’ 638 Contracting. In addition, the House Agriculture and Senate Public Works committees will also hold hearings relevant to Tribal interests.  

Federal register highlights this week include the 2018 Farm Bill extension of USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), an upcoming public meeting about the Self-Governance PROGRESS Act, and a Final Rule on the Federal Subsistence Management Program.  

Nominations are open for the Invasive Species Advisory Committee until April 27, 2024. 

On March 15, USDA Food and Nutrition Services will host an online-only Tribal consultation on two proposed rules (work requirements and EBT card technology). IFAI will host a Tribal caucus/briefing on these proposed rules on March 13 at 2:30 p.m., pre-register here, and get access to the IFAI briefing note when it is published next week. 

In Tribal News, articles cover Red Lake Nation’s continuing journey toward food sovereignty, increased federal funding for Pacific Northwest Tribes and the expansion of electric service and irrigation for Tribes in Arizona. Finally, a historic agribusiness trade mission involving Native Nations, is set to take place in Canada in June. 

Congressional updates   

Looking Back

Hearing: Senate Agriculture Committee– Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 

Topic: Oversight of the U.S. Department of Agriculture 

Witness: Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack 

Looking Ahead

Hearing: Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works  – Wednesday, Mar. 6, 2024, at 10:00 a.m. EST   

Topic: Examining Extended Producer Responsibility Policies for Consumer Packaging 


  • Erin Simon – Vice President, Plastic Waste and Business World Wildlife Fund 
  • H. Fisk Johnson – Chairman and CEO, S.C. Johnson & Sons, Inc. 
  • Dan Felton – Executive Director, AMERIPEN 

Hearing: House Committee on Natural Resources – Wednesday, Mar. 6, 2024, at 10:15 a.m. EST 

Topic: Legislative Hearing on H.R.7408 – America’s Wildlife Habitat Conservation Act 

Witnesses: TBD – By invitation only 

Hearing: House Committee on Natural Resources – Wednesday, Mar. 6, 2024, at 2:15 a.m. EST 

Topic: Advancing Tribal Self-Determination: Examining Bureau of Indian Affairs’ 638 Contracting – Indian and Insular Affairs Subcommittee 

Witnesses: TBD – By invitation only 

Hearing: House Agriculture Committee– Wednesday, Mar. 6, 2024, at 10:00 a.m. EST 

Topic: “For the Purpose of Receiving Testimony from the Honorable Rostin Behnam, Chairman, Commodity Futures Trading Commission.” 

Witness: Rostin Behnam, Chairman, Commodity Futures Trading Commission 

Executive Branch and Federal Agency Actions: 

A recent White House roundtable brought together federal officials and leaders from the nonprofit, philanthropic, and financial sectors to discuss economic development and investment in Indian Country.

Click below to download IFAI’s notes on a recent White House Intergovernmental Affairs call with update on the White House Nutrition Conference and Secretary Tom Vilsack’s upcoming trip to the Osage Nation Reservation.

Nomination opportunities: 

What is the nomination for? Secure Rural Schools Resource Advisory Committee  

Description: The advisory committee will advise the Secretary of Agriculture on Title II projects that provide critical funding for schools, roads, and other municipal services to more than 700 counties across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The committee will serve for two years unless renewed by the Secretary.   

Deadline for submission? March 17, 2024 

 What is the nomination for? Invasive Species Advisory Committee  

Description: The Committee will serve to advise the National Invasive Species Council (NISC) on interdepartmental coordination, planning, and leadership for the Federal Government on the prevention, eradication, and control of invasive species.  

Deadline for submission? April 27, 2024  

Regulatory/Rulemaking actions:


Agency: USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBCS) 

Action: Notice of Funding Opportunity for Rural Energy for America Program Technical Assistance Grant Program for Fiscal Year 2024; Applications due March 15, 2024 

Why it matters: Funding available to Agricultural Producers and Tribal entities that assist with projects located in a Disadvantaged Community or a Distressed Community, support projects using Underutilized Renewable Energy Technologies (“Underutilized Technologies”), and/or support grant applications of $20,000 or less.  

Posted: Week of February 27. 

Agency: USDA Forest Service; DOI Fish and Wildlife Service

Action: Final Rule on Subsistence Management Regulations for Public Lands in Alaska and Subsistence Taking of Wildlife and Fish and Shellfish Regulations; the final rule was effective on February 29, 2024. 

Why it matters: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior jointly implement the Federal Subsistence Management ProgramThis final rule revises regulations for seasons, harvest limits, methods, and means related to taking fish for subsistence uses in Alaska and the regulations for subsistence taking of wildlife. The implementation of this rule is by Federal agencies, and there is no cost imposed on any State or local entities or Tribal governments. 

Posted: Week of March 5.

Agency: USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA)

Action:Notice about Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the 2018 Farm Bill extension to September 30, 2024  

Why it matters:

This notice provides information about the CRP’s extension to Sept. 30, 2024. 

CRP’s purpose continues to be to cost-effectively assist producers in conserving and improving natural resources, restoring environmentally sensitive land by converting it to long-term vegetative cover, and improving the health of grasslands. The Transition Incentives Program and the Forest Management Incentive have both been extended to September 30, 2024, with no changes.  

Posted: Week of March 5.

Agency: USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) 

Action: Comments Requested on the WIC Food Delivery Portal by April 29, 2024. 

Why it matters:

State Agencies and Tribal Organizations are required to submit to FNS a summary of the results of their vendor monitoring efforts, assuring that every reasonable effort has been made to ensure the integrity of the WIC program. Data collection is done through the Food Delivery Portal and comments are invited on topics such as enhancing the quality, utility, and clarity of information to be collected.  

Posted: Week of March 5.

Agency: USDA Rural Utilities Service  

Action: Notice of Funding Opportunity for the Rural eConnectivity Program; Applications open March 22, 2024, and close April 22, 2024.  

Why it matters: The Rural Utilities Service announces acceptance of applications under the Rural eConnectivity (Reconnect) program that will award loan and grant funds to qualified applicants to fund the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service. Applications can be submitted through the RUS online application. Late or incomplete applications will not be accepted. 

Posted: Week of February 27. 

Agency: USDA Food and Nutrition Service 

Action: OMB Review Comments Request about Recordkeeping for Employment and Training Program Activity Report by March 18, 2024. 

Why it matters: FNS will review Information collected through Employment and Training funding requests to ensure that States are running SNAP efficiently and economically. FNS will reallocate unexpended funds to State agencies as appropriate and applicable.  

Posted: Week of February 19. 

Tribal Consultation and Listening Sessions/Advisory Committee Meetings:

Title of Event: Public Meeting about Self-Governance PROGRESS Act Negotiated Rulemaking Committee 

About: The meeting is being held as a way of negotiating and providing advice to the Interior Secretary on the implementation of the Practical Reforms and Other Goals to Reinforce the Effectiveness of Self-Governance and Self-Determination (PROGRESS) for Indian Tribes Act. Send your comments, within 30 days following the meeting, to the Designated Federal Officer, Vickie Hanvey, using the following methods: 

Preferred method: 

  • Email to  
  • comments@bia.gov 
  • with “PROGRESS Act” in subject line. 

Alternate methods: 

  • Mail, hand-carry or use an overnight courier service to the Designated Federal Officer, Ms. Vickie Hanvey, Office of Self-Governance, Office of the Assistant Secretary—Indian Affairs, 1849 C Street NW, Mail Stop 3624, Washington, DC 20240. 

Date: March 14, 2024 

Time: 1-5 p.m. EST 

Location: Department of the Interior Building, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240 in the North Penthouse Conference Room.  

Title of Event: Improving Indian Affairs Methodology used to calculate facilities Operation and Maintenance funding allocations. 

About: Indian Affairs is requesting input from Tribes on the factors that impact the costs of Operating and Maintaining a facility which should be considered for a new O&M allocation methodology. Some examples of factors that IA is considering include gross square feet (GSF), location (nearest reference city), type of facility, and age of facility. The factors are being considered to improve the allocation of funding and are not related to the total need for funding requested in annual budgets. 

Date: Session 1: Tuesday, March 5th, 2024 Session 2: Thursday, March 7th, 2024 

Time: 11:00 am- 12:00 pm ET 

Location: Online.

Title of Event: March 2024 SNAP Consultation – Proposed Rules on Work Requirements and EBT Card Security Measures 

About: USDA Food & Nutrition Services will hold a Tribal consultation concerning two proposed rules possibly impacting Tribal nations that will (1) update SNAP work requirements to match the ones laid out in the law by Congress in 2023 (Public Law 118-5) and (2) reduce stolen SNAP benefits and fraud by proposing changes in existing regulations that will modernize EBT technology.  

Dates: Friday, March 15, 2024 

Time: 1-3 p.m. EST 

Location: Online only, must register here. 

Link: For the Dear Tribal Leader invitation, proxy letter template and updated scheduling information, please see the ‘Upcoming Tribal Consultations’ section of the Office of Tribal Relations Website here.

Tribal Caucus: IFAI will facilitate a Tribal Caucus on March 13 at 2:30 p.m. CST to brief Tribes of the provisions on these two rules on March 12, pre-registration is required. 

Title of Event: Tribal Forum – Proposed Plan Amendment: National Old Growth Amendment. 

About: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service invites you to consult on the National Old Growth Amendment (NOGA) 

Date: March 27 at 2:30 p.m. EST 

Tribal Resources: Please see the Intertribal Timber Council’s February 2, 2024 letter on this consultation issue here. The ITC calls on the USFS to hold a direct consultation with each Tribe potentially affected by the proposal as it applies to individual forest plans. This requires more than seeking comments from tribes – it means the Forest Service must fully understand specific tribal resource management plans and be responsive to them in this process. 

Court Decisions:   

United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit): 

Lexington Ins. Co., et.al. v. Suquamish Tribe, et.al. No. 22-35784 (Feb. 29. 2024) 

The Suquamish Tribal Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over the Tribe’s claim against nonmember, off-reservation insurance companies that participate in an insurance program tailored to and offered exclusively to tribes.  The Tribal Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over this matter under the Tribe’s sovereign authority over “consensual relationships.” 


United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit: 

Holly Berry v. United States.  No. 22-2031 (Feb. 28, 2024) 

A landowner filed a takings claim against the United States after the Bureau of Indian Affairs took the next-door land parcel into trust on behalf of the Cherokee Nation. The Nation constructed a gaming facility on the property that allegedly caused flooding on the landowner’s property. The landowner’s takings claim failed because the flooding was not directly caused by the United States taking the land into trust, but by the actions of the Tribe that built the facility. 


Tribal News:


How Cherilyn Spears Moved Red Lake Nation to Food SovereigntyMinnesota Women’s Press 

  • Cherilyn Spears began Red Lake Nation’s food initiative Gitigaanike in 2015 and now serves as the Tribe’s director of agriculture. 
  • Although the Tribe began expanding its food sovereignty efforts since 2015, Spears said the Tribe was not prepared for the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • They set out to make changes, and grants from the Native American Agriculture Fund as well as federal programs, and Tribal support have helped Spears and her team expand access to fresh, healthy, and traditional foods.  

Acclaimed Rhode Island chef among Women of the Year 2024Boston.com 

  • USA Today recently announced Native chef and owner of Sly Fox Den Too, Sherry Pocknett (Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe), as a nominee for the 2024 Person of the Year. 
  • Pocknett won a James Beard award last year for the Best Chef for the Northeast, becoming the first Native woman to win.  
  • She sources locally and Tribally-produced ingredients for her quaint, successful restaurant in Rhode Island. 

Biden Administration to require head of federal subsistence board to be Alaska Native  — Must Read Alaska 

  • A new requirement by the Biden administration is stipulating that the head of the Federal Subsistence Board must be an Alaska Native. This decision marks a significant shift in federal policy regarding the management of subsistence hunting and fishing rights in Alaska. 
  • By prioritizing Alaska Native leadership in this key role, the administration aims to ensure that Indigenous perspectives and priorities are adequately represented in decisions affecting subsistence resources.  

Historic Native Nations Agribusiness Trade Mission to Take Place in Canada in June | Currents Native News Online 

  • An upcoming historic agribusiness trade mission involving Native nations, is set to take place in Canada in June. Led by the Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) and the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC), the mission aims to foster economic opportunities and partnerships between Indigenous agricultural producers and Canadian counterparts. 
  • This initiative underscores the growing importance of Indigenous-led agriculture and trade initiatives, with a focus on sustainable development and cultural preservation. Through collaboration and engagement, the trade mission seeks to strengthen Indigenous food sovereignty and promote economic prosperity for Native communities. 


Pacific Northwest salmon: White signs $1 billion deal with Oregon, Washington, Native American tribes  — Nation World News  

  • The article discusses a landmark $1 billion deal between the Pacific Northwest salmon producer, the White House, and several Native American tribes in Oregon and Washington. Tribal leaders from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Nez Perce Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and the Yakama Nation played key roles in negotiating the agreement. 
  • This historic deal not only provides economic opportunities for the Tribes but also underscores their commitment to environmental stewardship through sustainable salmon harvesting practices. 

No small potatoes: Federal funding will help tribes expand electric service, irrigation Arizona Central 

  • The Biden administration announced increased federal funding for water for irrigation and other use as well as power projects benefiting Arizona tribes, with Tribal leaders playing pivotal roles in securing these resources. Tribal leaders from various Arizona Tribes, including the Gila River Indian Community, the Navajo Nation, the Tohono O’odham Nation, and the Hopi Tribe, have been actively engaged in advocating for increased funding to address critical infrastructure needs. 
  • These efforts highlight the collaborative partnerships between Tribal governments and federal agencies to improve water and power infrastructure in Tribal communities, ultimately enhancing Tribal sovereignty and self-sufficiency. 

From the Field – Meat Processing Technical Assistance SuccessNational Sustainable Agriculture Coalition 

  • There are major successes in the meat processing technical assistance program in supporting small-scale meat processors, with Tribal leaders from the Ho-Chunk Nation and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe playing integral roles. Through this program, Tribal leaders have collaborated with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) to navigate regulatory hurdles, improve processing infrastructure, and enhance market access for Tribal producers. 
  • Their proactive engagement underscores the importance of Tribal leadership in addressing challenges faced by Indigenous farmers and ranchers in accessing meat processing facilities. This collaboration has resulted in increased economic opportunities and food sovereignty for Tribal communities.