Policy Brief – March 26, 2024

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Policy Brief Summary

Congress has no Tribal agriculture-relevant hearings this week. Last week’s Congressional notes include a hearing on Tribal 477 plan implementation with Asst. Secretary of Indian Affairs Bryan Newland, testimony from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to a House Agriculture Subcommittee and a legislation-focused hearing in a House Natural Resources subcommittee. 

On March 23, President Biden signed H.R. 2882, the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2024, which provides funding for the federal government through September 30, 2024.  

There is one Federal Register notice on employment and training opportunities in SNAP with comments accepted until April 18.  

There are consultations or Tribal meetings scheduled in the next few weeks, including a Tribal Caucus that IFAI is facilitating on the Summer EBT Program on April 11 (register here). The caucus will brief Tribes on provisions before the comment submission deadline at the end of April.  

USDA announced April dates for its annual consultations via newsletter, though no dates are on the Office of Tribal Relations website as of yet. Dear Tribal Leader letters are expected to be out this week.

The USDA has also scheduled a newly announced Tribal consultation/listening session on Public Access to USDA-funded research for April 11. There is an old-growth forest Tribal forum this Wednesday, see our partners’ letter to the U.S. Forest Service concerning this meeting. 

Quotes from IFAI’s Erin Parker and NAAF’s Toni Stanger-McLaughlin are in a news piece concerning Indian Country Agriculture. Several articles in Tribal News this week focus on youth programs such as the Native Excellence Scholarship Program in Wyoming, the Indian Youth Service Corps program in Oklahoma, and the Indigenous Food Sovereignty Emerging Leaders Program in North Dakota.  


Speaking of Tribal youth, April 1 is the deadline for application submissions to the 2024 IFAI Tribal Youth Leadership Summit on July 15-23 in Arkansas. Check out the background on the program and submit the (very short) application at this link. 

Congressional updates   

Looking Back

Hearing: House Natural Resource Indian and Insular Affairs Subcommittee– Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2024. 

Topic: Advancing Tribal Self-Determination: Examining the opportunities and challenges of the 477 Program 



  • Asst. Secretary Newland cited improvements in 477 delivery through the Department of Interior as a result of the 2022 Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) but acknowledged work remains to be done with federal agencies that claim authority to refuse funding disbursements. 
  • Tribal representatives from the 477 Tribal Work Group co-chair (Citizen Potawatomi Nation), Northern Arapaho Tribe and Wyandotte Nation all hailed the current Bureau’s focus on improving program delivery through this MoA, but provided several examples where federal agencies cited their authority to withhold funding for months or years at a time.  

Hearing: House Appropriation Committee– Thursday, Mar. 21, 2024. 

Topic: Agriculture Budget 

Witnesses: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack 


  • In the context of Farm Bill discussions and relief requests for California dairy producers, reporters pressed Secretary Vilsack on the administration’s use of the CCC. 
  • Committee Chair Dr. Andy Harris (R-MD) cited ITO management of WIC and summer feeding programs as precedent for limits on SNAP program foods in a discussion with the Secretary. 
  • Secretary Vilsack said the comparison to state and ITO-managed programs is not the same, and there are complicated aspects to the programs. 

Hearing: House Natural Resources Committee Water, Wildlife and Fisheries Subcommittee  – Thurs, Mar. 21, 2024. 

Topic: Pending legislation – H.R. 5487 (118), the “Help Our Kelp Act” mentioned for its provisions that include Tribes. 

Witnesses: Deb Self, Senior director of restoration and partnerships at the Greater Farallones Association 


  • This bill would stand up a new competitive grant program for states and local governments tribes, the fishing industry and higher educational institutions to create projects that bolster the health of underwater kelp and improve monitoring efforts.  
  • The bill provides five years of funding scale restoration projects within a framework of collaboration and specifically includes a set aside for Tribes. 

Looking Ahead

There are no Congressional hearings relating to Indigenous Food and Agriculture at the time of publication.   

Nomination opportunities: 

 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 Food and Nutrition Service 

Action: Submission for OMB Review on Employment and Training (E&T) Opportunities in The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Comments requested by April 18, 2024. 

Why it matters: States are required to provide case management services such as comprehensive intake assessments and individualized service plans. Their purpose (which are provided virtually, over the phone, in-person, or hybrid) is to guide E&T participants towards appropriate E&T components and activities based on the participant’s needs and interests, to support the participant in the E&T program, and to provide activities and resources that will assist the participant toward self-sufficiency. USDA will use this information to better administer the SNAP E&T Program and to provide improved customer service to SNAP E&T participants. 

Posted: Week of March 25.  

Agency: USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) 

Action: Submission for OMB Review on Collection of Information on Individual Research, Education, and Integrated Activities; Comments requested by April 12, 2024. 

Why it matters: NIFA administers research, education, and extension programs, under which awards of high-priority are made. The information provided helps monitor the latest developments in utilization in specific target areas, plan for future activities; plan for resource allocation to research and education programs; avoid costly duplication of effort; aid in coordination of research and education efforts addressing similar problems in different location; and aid researchers and project directors in establishing valuable contacts with the agricultural community. 

Posted: Week of March 18. 

Agency: USDA Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights 

Action: Submission for OMB Review on reporting of Race, Ethnicity, and Gender Data; Comments requested by April 15, 2024. 

Why it matters: Section 14006 of the 2008 Farm Bill requires USDA to annually compile application and participation rate data on socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers. Each USDA program is to compute raw numbers and rates of applicants and participants by race, ethnicity, and gender. The USDA will continue to voluntarily collect data. 

Posted: Week of March 18.

Agency: USDA Rural Housing Service (RHS) 

Action: Final Rule on Changes to Related to Reserve Account Administration in Multi-Family Housing (MFH) Direct Loan Programs effective April 17, 2024. 

Why it matters: RHS offers loans, grants, and loan guarantees for single- and multi-family housing, childcare centers, fire and police stations, hospitals, libraries, nursing homes, schools, first responder vehicles and equipment, and housing for farm laborers. With this change, the borrower will be able to use surplus cash to fund Agency-approved soft debt (e.g. debt that is generally not immediately due and payable). 

Posted: Week of March 18. 

Agency: USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) 

Action: Final Rule on Amendments to the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 effective May 6, 2024. 

Why it matters: This final rule addresses discriminatory or deceptive practices experienced by producers and growers from packers, swine contractors, and live poultry dealers. These practices include (1) discriminatory prejudices on certain bases relating to the producer’s characteristics, (2) retaliation for engaging in certain acts as part of being a livestock or poultry producer or rower, and (3) false or misleading statements or material omissions in certain contexts. This final rule is also intended to promote inclusive competition and market integrity.  

Posted: Week of March 11. 

Agency: USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) 

Action: Submission for OMB Review on Reporting Requirements for State Plans of Work for Agricultural Research and Extension Formula Funds; Comments requested by April 5, 2024. 

Why it matters: Before formula funds may be provided to 1862 and 1890 land-grant institutions, a plan of work must be submitted by each institution and approved by NIFA, which is requesting to continue to collect an update to the 5-Year Plan of Work which began with the Fiscal Year 2007. Institutions are required to report on things such as the actions taken to seek stakeholder input, encouraging participation, and a statement of how collected input was considered.  

Posted: Week of March 11. 

Tribal Consultation and Listening Sessions/Advisory Committee Meetings:

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. 

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: 

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: April 4, 2024 

Time: 1-5 p.m. EST 

Location: The meeting will be held virtually. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before May 6, 2024. 

Title of Event: IFAI Tribal Caucus – Summer EBT  

About: Last year, USDA published an interim Final Rule re Establishing the Summer EBT Program and Rural Non-Congregate Option in the Summer Meal Programs. Comments are due by April 29, 2024. 

Date: April 11 at 11 a.m. CST 

Tribal Resources: While there is no official consultation for this proposal, IFAI is facilitating a Tribal Caucus on the Summer EBT Program on April 11 (register here) at 11 a.m. CST to answer questions or provide input to interested Tribes. Caucus registrants will receive the briefing note from IFAI ahead of the event.   

Title of Event: Tribal Consultation and Listening Session on Public Access to USDA-Funded Research  

About: This Tribal consultation and listening session will discuss changes to the public access requirements to USDA-funded research results. Specifically, topics will include equitable access to the results of USDA-funded research, Indigenous data sovereignty, and potential outreach and training partnerships. Agencies should complete and publish full policy development for plans implementing provisions in Section 3 by December 31st, 2024, with an effective date no later than one year after the publication of the agency plan.  

Date: April 11 at 1:30 – 3:30 pm ET.  

Tribal Resources: A Tribal Caucus will be held hosted by the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) at 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm on the same day of the consultation.  

Title of Event: USDA Annual Tribal Consultations  

About: USDA’s Office of  Tribal Relations released their dates for annual consultations via newsletter. Dear Tribal Leader letters are set to be issued this week and the dates/details will also be posted on the OTR website soon. 


  • Education & Research – April 22 
  • Forests & Public Lands – April 23 
  • Farming & Conservation – April 24 
  • Food, Safety & Trade – April 25 
  • Economic Development – April 26 

Court Decisions:   

There were no court decisions relevant to Tribal food and agriculture at the time of publication.  

Tribal News:

Scholarship opportunity benefits Indigenous students pursuing agriculture  Wyoming News Now 

  • The Wind River Development Fund, situated in Fort Washakie, Wyoming, has announced the initiation of its Native Excellence Scholarship program, welcoming applications from Indigenous high school seniors. The program aims to grant $1000 scholarships to five individuals intending to pursue higher education in agriculture, a significant sector in Wyoming. 
  • Marie Mellick, the lending director at the Wind River Development Fund, emphasized the importance of easing the financial burden associated with higher education for students and their families. She highlighted the Fund’s commitment to facilitating access to educational opportunities through an initiative designed not only to encourage youth to explore opportunities in the agricultural field but also to support their aspirations of attending college. 

 Agriculture continues to grow in tribal nations —Successful Farming 

  • Erin Parker, executive director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas School of Law, reveals that agriculture in Indian Country amounted to nearly $6.5 billion in 2022, with cattle ranching being the predominant activity on 39% of farms.  
  • Toni Stanger-McLaughlin, CEO of the Native American Agriculture Foundation, underscores the importance of nurturing the next generation of Native farmers, expanding access to capital, and ensuring Indigenous voices are heard in decisions impacting their food systems. 

 Newman’s Own Foundation Announces Inaugural Food Justice for Kids PrizeStreet Insider 

  • Newman’s Own Foundation has announced the inaugural Food Justice for Kids Prize, a grant initiative that will provide up to $1 million in funding shared among ten organizations over two years. The Advisory Council, which includes distinguished leaders such as Joe Claunch from the Puyallup Tribe, Janie Simms Hipp from Native Agriculture Financial Services, and Sandy Martini from the Native American Agriculture Fund, is reviewing the applications. 
  • The grant is open to eligible nonprofits (501c3 public charities), public schools, and tribes leading food justice programs. The application deadline is June 11, 2024. The foundation has partnered with JustFund to streamline the application process for social change organizations. 

Tribal, bi-regional partnership builds future workforce with Indian Youth Service Corps | US Forest ServiceUSDA 

  • The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma (UKB) has partnered with the USDA Forest Service to launch a unique bi-regional Indian Youth Service Corps program. This initiative offers hands-on training opportunities for young people from the UKB on national forests in the Eastern and Southern Regions, with a focus on Forest Service-managed ancestral lands and culturally significant sites. 
  • The program, funded for four years primarily through Washington Office Reforestation Trust funds, aims to develop the next generation of natural resource managers, support cultural resource preservation, and provide valuable job training and career opportunities in cultural and natural resource management. 

Native News Weekly (March 17, 2024): D.C. Briefs | CurrentsNative News Online 

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has opened applications for the Indigenous Food Sovereignty Emerging Leaders Program, a three-week initiative in partnership with North Dakota State University’s Institute for Indigenous Food Sovereignty and Public Health. Supported by the USDA Office of Tribal Relations, the program aims to enhance culturally appropriate public health services in American Indian communities with a focus on Indigenous food sovereignty. 
  • North Dakota State University’s Institute for Indigenous Food Sovereignty and Public Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are selecting up to 25 high school and college undergraduate students, aged 18 by May 1, 2024, to engage with diverse stakeholders, broaden their knowledge in public health, nutrition, and agriculture, and develop skills for building sustainable food and public health programs within Native communities. The program will take place from June 9 – 29, 2024, at NDSU’s campus in Fargo, North Dakota, with an application deadline of April 15. 

Tapping maple trees offers glimpse into climate changeICT News 

  • A unique course at Northwestern University that provides students with hands-on experience in maple syrup production and climate change data collection is now being offered. The course, which has been running for about seven years, was initially developed by Eli Suzukovich III of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa/Cree in partnership with the American Indian Center in Chicago. Suzukovich adapted the curriculum for Northwestern students to teach them about climate change and the environment from a Native perspective, incorporating Indigenous traditions and knowledge. 
  • Students in the course learn to tap sugar maple trees on campus, collect sap, and test its sugar content, eventually boiling it into maple syrup. The class aims to foster a deeper connection with the environment and promote adaptation to climate change, and students emphasize the importance of integrating Indigenous education and climate curricula more broadly on campus.