Policy Brief – April 2, 2024

Home 9 Policy Briefing 9 Policy Brief – April 2, 2024

Policy Brief Summary

There were no Congressional hearings last week about Tribal Food and Agriculture, and this week Congress is not in session.  

 Nominations for the Invasive Species Advisory Committee are still open. The deadline is April 29. 

 There is one Federal Register notice to highlight regarding the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) review of the 2024 and 2026 WIC Participant and Program Characteristics Study.  

 Consultations or Tribal meetings are 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.  

 The Office of Tribal Relations has scheduled the 2024 Barriers Consultation during the week of April 22 to April 26. These consultations are immediately preceded by Tribal Caucuses. 

 Tribal News this week highlights articles on Tribal preservation and restoration efforts regarding native plants and seed varieties, cover crops, and buffalo.  

Congressional updates   

Looking Back

There were no Congressional hearings relating to Indigenous Food and Agriculture last week.  

Looking Ahead

Congress is not in session this week.  

Executive Branch and Federal Agency Actions: 

None 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 (FNS) 

Action: Submission for OMB Review on WIC Participant and Program Characteristics 2024 & 2026 Study; Comments requested by April 26, 2024. 

Why it matters: This biennial data collection is being conducted to provide FNS information on a census of WIC participants in April of 2024 and 2026. Data used to produce the WIC Participant and Program Characteristic Study (PC) are collected from participants by State agencies and are used to evaluate topics such as the impact of the program, support State agencies, and identify research needs. There are 33 Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs) that administer WIC.  

Posted: Week of April 1 

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. 

Tribal Consultation and Listening Sessions/Advisory Committee Meetings:

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

About: The meeting will provide 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 meetingComments are due no later than Thursday May 4, 2023, 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: 1:00 -5:00 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 2024 Barriers Consultation 

About: USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations has scheduled its annual Barriers Consultation during the week of April 22, 2024, from 3:00 – 5:30 pm ET each day. Each consultation session is preceded by Tribal caucuses from 2:00 – 3:00 pm ET. Dear Tribal Leader letters have been issued, along with proxy letters and instructions on how to register.  


Court Decisions:   

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

Tribal News:

ARS Project Supports Indigenous Seed SovereigntyUSDA 

  • USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is collaborating with Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College (NHSC) and United Tribes Technical College (UTTC) to expand the growth of heritage corn varieties and consolidate knowledge of culturally significant plants in the region. 
  • The ARS Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory in Mandan, North Dakota, supports NHSC’s goal of providing traditional seeds to Tribal members for seed sovereignty and assists UTTC in researching culturally sensitive propagation techniques.   
  • The partnership aims to preserve native plants and seed varieties important to the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara peoples, with a goal to use this pilot project as a model for future Tribal college research relationships celebrating Indigenous knowledge throughout ARS research facilities. 

 Oneida Nation white corn co-op restoring soils with cover cropsMilwaukee Sentinel Journal 

  • Members of Ohe·láku, a co-op of Oneida Nation families, partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Madison to successfully test a triple cover crop mix (winter wheat, clover, chicory) to restore and enrich their traditional white corn soil, maintaining soil fertility and limiting runoff. Laura Manthe, a co-founder of the co-op, stated that the positive results convince people. 
  • The cover cropping and interseeding practices resonate with Indigenous traditions, such as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy’s Three Sisters (squash, corn, and beans), which naturally protect each other from pests and disease. Daniel Hayden, a Comanche, Pawnee, and Muscogee (Creek) doctoral student, emphasized the importance of Indigenous knowledge in informing farming practices and understanding the relationship between plants and soil microbes. 
  • Hayden’s research aims to unlock unique ways to improve crop and soil health by studying the effects of diverse crops on soil microbes. The co-op hopes to expand and deepen its work with Hayden’s support, and Laura Manthe aims to encourage non-Indigenous farmers to adopt these sustainable practices by demonstrating the economic benefits without compromising corn yields. 

 Toward a True and Just Buffalo Restoration MovementThe Daily Yonder 

  • Fred DuBray (Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe), a prominent figure in Indigenous food sovereignty efforts,) founded the Intertribal Buffalo Cooperative (ITBC) in the 1980s to restore buffalo populations and their significance to Tribal communities.  
  • In an op-ed, hHis daughter Elsie M. DuBray expresses concerns that the movement might be overshadowed by Western agriculture, white conservation, and economic development, potentially compromising the authentic restoration goals. 
  • Buffalo restoration has gained national momentum, with 20,500 buffalo in U.S. conservation herds and 450,000 in commercial herds. There are 82 Tribes managing 65 buffalo herds and a federal working group under the Department of the Interior dedicated to buffalo restoration, as part of a “restoration and resilience framework.” 
  • The buffalo restoration movement faces challenges, including the potential for the commodification of buffalo and a shift away from the values and spiritual significance of the animals. The focus is on the need for integrity in the restoration efforts, emphasizing the cultural values and relationship with buffalo rather than mere numbers or economic gains. 

 Native Youth Learn to Heal Their Communities Through MyceliumCivil Eats 

 Nyomi Oliver, a 20-year-old Navajo/Chicana, joined Denver nonprofit Spirit of the Sun to reconnect with Indigenous perspectives and learn about traditional ecological knowledge. She participated in the Indigenous science and foodways program and the mycelium healing project, which focuses on using fungi to restore land and produce food, yielding over 1,000 pounds of produce for the elder food share program. 

  • Shannon Francis (Diné/Hopi), the executive director of Spirit of the Sun, initiated the mycelium healing project in 2021 to address environmental injustice caused by the Suncor Oil Refinery. With the guidance of mycology expert James Weiser, Native youth leaders have developed mycelial mother patches and host training sessions to teach community members how to grow mushrooms, aiming to expand the positive impacts of mycelium through ongoing soil testing. 
  • Spirit of the Sun emphasizes early education with its Indigenous toddlers and teachings program and encourages youth to observe the world through an Indigenous lens. Shannon’s 23-year-old daughter, Chenoa, is the youth outreach and agricultural support coordinator, advocating for Indigenous rights and continuing the organization’s mission. 

 A Land Back win for the Yurok TribeICT News 

  • Yurok citizens, employees of Save the Redwoods League, the National Park Service, and California State Parks have signed a historic memorandum of agreement to return a 125-acre stretch of land named ‘O Rew to the Yurok Tribe by 2026. This marks the first time in U.S. history that a Native nation will co-manage a national park. The agreement aims to deepen the relationship between the Yurok Tribe and the National Park Service. The park, located at the southern gateway to the Redwood National and State Parks, is a culturally and historically significant village site for the Yurok Tribe. 
  • Restoration efforts led by Save the Redwoods League, Yurok Tribe Construction Corporation, and Fisheries Department, along with California Trout, have been successful in restoring Prairie Creek at ‘O Rew, creating critical habitat for juvenile coho salmon and steelhead. The restoration efforts are part of healing the land and Joseph James, chairman of the Yurok Tribe, says this is a proud moment in the timeline of the Yurok Tribe and Indian Country. 
  • The history of ‘O Rew includes the loss of the Yurok Tribe’s ancestral homelands during colonization, with the land being seized by colonial settlers in the mid-1800s and later operated as a lumber mill in the mid-1900s. The transfer of ownership and signing of a co-management agreement with a Native nation is a clear example of Land Back in action and demonstrates the Yurok Tribe’s ability to protect, preserve, and care for their land.