Policy Brief – December 19, 2023

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Policy Brief Summary


After a week off for the annual Intertribal Agriculture Council’s gathering, the policy brief is back. We will take a two-week break over the Christmas and New Year holidays but will be back on the week of January 8. If news or information breaks about a Farm Bill, we will send out relevant information during that period.  

The notes of three Congressional hearings from the first week of December are included below. Additionally, the Biden Administration announced a 10-year partnership with Tribes and States in the Pacific Northwest.  

Nomination opportunities for the USDA Plant Variety Protection Board and the EPA Animal Agriculture and the Water Quality Subcommittee remain open with January 2024 deadlines along with two newly proposed federal advisory committees focused on the Black Hills and rural schools.  

Notable Federal Register items include revised deadlines for CDFI Funding and Technical Assistance programs and two final rule notices for SNAP and implementation of the Access to Baby Formula Act of 2022.  

There are two U.S. District Court decisions to note from the District of Montana and the District of South Dakota.  

Tribal news covers a lot of new and innovative work by Native chefs from Tribes around the country, with additional pieces on new federal funding for meat processing in Tribal communities and a feature on the Choctaw Nation’s heirloom seed initiative.  

Congressional updates   

Looking Back

There were no scheduled congressional hearings related to Tribal food and agriculture from the week of December 11, but we have included readouts of three hearings from the week of December 4.  

Hearing: House Natural Resource, Indian and Insular Affairs Dec. 5  

Topic: Pending Legislation 


  • There was support for the proposed legislation (HR 4748 “Unrecognized Southeast Alaska Native Communities Recognition and Compensation Act”; H.R. 6368 “Indian Buffalo Management Act”; H.R. 6443 “Jamul Indian Village Land Transfer Act.”) by the committee.  
  • Most of the hearing time was spent explaining the purpose/background of the bills.  

    Hearing: House Natural Resources, Federal Lands Dec.5  

    Topic: Examining Opportunities to Promote and Enhance Tribal Forest Management 


    • Key issues that came up include staffing issues across the board both in Tribal Forestry departments, and the need for expanded funding for the BIA and USDA which would be made available to Tribes through 638 contracts.  
    • The U.S. Forest Service representative was repeatedly asked about the disparity in effective forest management between Tribally managed forests and forests managed by the U.S Forest Service, which led to discussions of increased collaboration and authority for land management by tribes as well as further incorporation of TEK. 

    Hearing: House Agriculture Committee Dec. 6  

    Topic: Member Day 


    • Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) stated his support for the Good Neighbor Authority in the Farm Bill. 
    • Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) asked the Committee to consider H.R. 5113, the Reach Our Tribes Act, which is bipartisan and bicameral legislation to improve USDA programs for Tribes.  
    • “The Reach Our Tribes Act not only acknowledges the sovereign rights of Tribal Nations but also equips us with the knowledge required to enhance service delivery and utilization for Tribes. It’s endorsed by the National Congress of American Indians and the Native Farm Bill Coalition.” 
    • Several Representatives advocated for greater support and provisions within the nutrition, commodity, and conservation titles of the Farm Bill

    Looking Ahead

    There were no scheduled congressional hearings related to Tribal food and agriculture at the time of publication.  

    Executive Branch and Federal Agency Actions: 


    Biden-Harris Administration Announces 10-Year Partnership with Tribes and States in the Pacific NorthwestThe White House Briefing Room  

    • Commitments to new funding for fish and wildlife; Tribally sponsored clean energy; increased flexibility in the operations of the Federal hydrosystem; and studies of dam services.  
    • When combined with other funding, this commitment is anticipated to deliver to the region more than $1 billion in new Federal investments to wild fish restoration in the Columbia River Basin over the next decade.  

    Announcement of Executive Order 14112 Reforming Federal Funding and Support for Tribal Nations – The White House Briefing Room  

    • Expresses strong support for Self-Determination and Self-Governance across the entire federal government.  

    • Offers additional direction to federal agencies to waive regulations and take many other actions in support of equitable program access for Tribes, or to find flexibilities supporting Tribes in designing new and revising existing programs. This also includes opportunities to redesign program applications and reporting requirements to reduce administrative burdens for Tribes.  

    • Agencies are also directed to review Tribal serving programs and report back on funding shortfalls.  

      Tune into IFAI’s webinar on January 23 from 2-3 p.m. central to learn about what the Executive Order entails and what it means for Indian Country. Registration required at bit.ly/IFAIEOJan23

    Nomination opportunities: 


    What is the nomination for: USDA Plant Variety Protection Board 

    Description: The PVPB advises the Secretary on rules and regulations to administer the Plant Variety Act, on appeals to decisions by the Plant Variety Protection Office, and on requests for emergency public-interest compulsory licenses. It consists of 14 members, representing farmers, the seed industry, trade and professional associations, and public and private research institutions who sit for 2-year terms. Meetings are held as needed. 

    Deadline for submission: January 15, 2024 

    What is the nomination for: EPA Animal Agriculture and Water Quality Subcommittee 

    Description: This subcommittee sits under the Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Advisory Committee. It will provide recommendations on improving implementation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permitting program to reduce nutrients and water pollutants from Animal Feeding Operations. Subcommittee representatives can be from Tribes, states, the agricultural industry, environmental, community, and public health groups, local governments, and research institutions. 

    Deadline for submission: January 2, 2024 

    What is the nomination for: Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board 

    Description: This advisory board will advise the Secretary of Agriculture on programmatic forest issues and project-level issues that have forest-wide implications. The board will be governed by the provisions of FACA. The board will serve for two years unless renewed by the Secretary of the USDA. Individuals who wish to be considered for membership on the Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board must submit a nomination with information, including a background disclosure form. 

    Deadline for submission: January 17, 2024 

    Where can I submit a nomination: To Scott Jacobson, Committee Coordinator, 8221 Mount Rushmore Road, Rapid City, South Dakota 57702. 

    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 

    Where can I submit a nomination? Nomination information can be found here. 

    Regulatory/Rulemaking actions:


    Agency: USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) 

    Action: Comment Request Regarding Collection of Information on Generic Clearance for Stakeholder Feedback and Surveys; Comment submission deadline by December 26, 2023.  

    Why it matters: FNS is seeking generic clearance to be able to obtain feedback from state, local and/or Tribal agencies and implementers, and program participants to contribute directly to the improvement and planning of research studies, program changes, regulatory activities, guidance, outreach and/or training activities. 

    Posted: Week of November 27 


    Agency: DOI Bureau of Indian Affairs 

    Action: Notice of Public Meetings on December 20, 2023; January 18; February 8; and February 29, 2024.  

    Why it matters: The public meetings are being held to obtain recommendations for a proposed rule that will inform the Secretary of Interior’s implementation of the Practical Reforms and Other Goals to Reinforce the Effectiveness of Self-Governance and Self-Determination for Indian Tribes Act of 2019 (PROGRESS Act).  

    Posted: Week of December 4  

    Agency: DOI Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund  

    Action: Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) for Financial Assistance (FA) or Technical Assistance (TA); Last day to submit CDFI Program Application for FA or TA is February 15, 2024 (Note: Specific steps to funding application correspond with varying deadlines listed on the Federal Register notice).  

    Why it matters: The CDFI Fund is issuing this notice to correct the deadlines contained within Table 12 of the NOFA that was originally published on December 11, 2023.  

    Posted: Week of December 18 

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

    Action: Comment Request Regarding Collection of Information on National 4-H Conference Registration Form, Leadership Interest Position Form, and Scholarship Interest Form; Comment submission deadline by January 12, 2024.  

    Why it matters: NIFA will use the collected information to plan and carry out the National 4-H Conference which is designed to develop the next generation of leaders and increase familiarity with government and future career opportunities. Information collected will include leadership background, contact information, activity and dietary preferences, eligibility requirements and parental/ guardian consent.  

    Posted: Week of December 18 

    Agency: USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) 

    Action: Final rule on the Revision of Civil Rights Data Collection Methods regarding SNAP; This rule will come into effect on February 12, 2024. 

    Why it matters: This final rule revises the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s (SNAP) regulation of collecting and reporting of race and ethnicity data by State agencies, prohibiting data collection of these factors by visual observation. Previously, visual observation during an interview was permitted as an alternative means of collecting race and ethnicity data when not voluntarily provided by a household on the application form.  

    Posted: Week of December 18 

    Agency: USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)  

    Action: Final rule on the Implementation of the Access to Baby Formula Act of 2022 and Related Provisions; Comment submission deadline by February 12, 2024.  

    Why it matters: President Biden signed the Access to Baby Formula Act of 2022 into law on May 21, 2022. In response to the shortage of baby formula during the pandemic, this law establishes permanent waiver authority to the Secretary of USDA to address certain emergencies, disasters, and supply chain disruptions impacting the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The law also requires WIC State agencies to include specific remedies to protect against disruptions to the Program in the event of an infant formula recall. This rule amends the WIC regulations by incorporating provisions of the Access to Baby Formula Act of 2022. 

    Posted: Week of December 18 

    Tribal Consultation and Listening Sessions:


    There were no tribal consultations/listening sessions related to Tribal food and agriculture at the time of publication.  

    Court Decisions:   

    U.S. District Court for the District of Montana: 

    Eagle Bear, Inc. v. The Blackfeet Indian Nation, et. al., CV-22-93-GF-BMM (Dec. 8, 2023) 

    This case discusses the BIA’s cancellation of a business lease between the Blackfeet Nation as lessor and a non-Tribal member entity running a KOA campground on trust land as lessee. The lessee was delinquent in multiple payments and the BIA properly followed regulations to cancel the lease (with a few extra complicating factors, appeals, etc.) 


    U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota: 

    Curtis Temple v. Lawrence Roberts et. al., CV-05062-CBK (Dec. 8, 2023) 

    The court held that the BIA did not infringe on a cattle rancher’s Fifth Amendment rights when it provided notices of trespass, impoundments, sale of the plaintiff’s livestock, and assessments of penalties on ranch land the BIA held in trust for the Blackfeet Nation.  

    Tribal News:

    New certification rules are ‘workable’ for Native CDFIs, industry advocate saysTribal Business News 

    • The Treasury Department released the new application for CDFI certification last week and it is taking into account the over 250 letters and 1,000 comments provided on the draft.  
    • The rules are now workable for Indian Country and will allow Tribal members to go through these institutions to receive loans that more accurately reflect their unique circumstances.  

    Video Native American chef uses Indigenous ingredients to honor her heritage in the kitchenABC News 

    • A feature on ABC News was devoted to Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma’s Crystal Wehpepah’s appearance on celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s show, and her innovative Indigenous cooking.    
    • She spoke on the importance of connecting Tribal foods to Tribal history and demonstrated one of the traditional dishes of the Kickapoo Tribe.  

    Keeping a tradition alive: Michigan tribes work to restore wild riceWoodTV 

    • Indigenous Tribes in Michigan are actively engaged in efforts to revive and preserve the traditional practice of cultivating wild rice. The initiative involves the Council of the Three Fires -an Anishinabe coalition—working together to restore natural habitats and promote sustainable wild rice growth. 
    • Beyond the ecological benefits, the restoration project underscores the Tribes’ commitment to cultural preservation and environmental stewardship. By reviving the cultivation of wild rice, these communities are not only fostering a vital food source but also maintaining a cultural tradition that has been integral to their heritage for generations. 

    These Lawrence students are reconnecting with Native culture using the art of thatchingKCUR Kansas City NPR 

    • Students in Lawrence, Kansas are actively reconnecting with their Native American heritage through the art of thatching. This unique initiative involves learning and practicing the traditional skill of thatching, a method of roof construction using natural materials, providing a hands-on approach to cultural rediscovery. 
    • The use of thatching as a medium for cultural exploration highlights the students’ commitment to cultural revitalization. Through this artistic and practical skill, participants not only engage in a tangible connection with their Native culture but also contribute to the preservation and promotion of traditional practices within their community. 

    These Indigenous Chefs Are Turning the Table on Native Foodways in the MidwestArts Midwest 

    • A group of Indigenous chefs in the Midwest is reshaping and celebrating Native food traditions through innovative culinary practices. By drawing inspiration from ancestral recipes and incorporating locally sourced ingredients, these chefs are contributing to a culinary renaissance that honors and revitalizes Indigenous foodways. 
    • Chefs Kimberly Tilsen-Brave Heart (Oglala Lakota), Sean Sherman (Oglala Lakota), and Bryce Stevenson (Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa) are growing the Indigenous Food Sovereignty movement through their Native food-centered initiatives. Through their innovative approaches, they are elevating traditional ingredients and cooking methods, promoting a deeper understanding and appreciation for Native cuisine in the Midwest. 

    Meet Jay Begaye, Navajo Traditional Horse WhispererAZ Viral 

    • Jay Begaye is recognized as a Navajo traditional horse whisperer, embodying centuries-old Indigenous knowledge and skills in building a unique and harmonious connection with horses. His expertise extends beyond conventional horsemanship, reflecting a deep understanding of the cultural significance of horses in the Navajo tradition. 
    • Jay Begaye’s work goes beyond horse training; it serves as a means of preserving and passing on cultural wisdom. By employing traditional Navajo approaches to communicate with and train horses, Begaye not only fosters a deep bond with these animals but also ensures the continuity of Indigenous knowledge and practices related to horsemanship. 

    Chef Jacque Siegfried of Natv- Cherokee Culture WarriorCherokee Copper 

    • Chef Jacque Siegfried has a significant role as a Cherokee Culture Warrior, showcasing her commitment to preserving and promoting Cherokee heritage through the culinary arts. 
    • Chef Siegfried skillfully merges traditional Cherokee ingredients and culinary techniques with modern approaches, creating a dining experience at Natv that serves as a testament to the vibrant intersection of culture, tradition, and contemporary cuisine. She was also chosen to cater some of the events at IFAI’s Native Food and Agriculture Leadership Summit this summer.  

    Tribe catches coho salmon on free-flowing Elwha River, a first since dam removalsThe Seattle Times 

    • The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe commenced its first fishery on the free-flowing Elwha River in over a century, marking a historic moment celebrated with a ceremonial gathering. The joyous occasion follows the removal of dams in 2014, restoring access to salmon habitat previously blocked for almost a century. 
    • Despite the fishing moratorium on the river, the Tribe, in collaboration with Olympic National Park and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, initiated a small coho salmon fishery for Tribal and subsistence purposes. This symbolic fishery, catching 400 coho out of a total run of 7,000, holds profound meaning for the community, representing a connection to their cultural heritage and the restoration of the river’s ecological balance. 

    Tuesday, December 12, 2023 – What can federal investment in food sovereignty accomplish?Native America Calling 

    • The Biden Administration has allocated over $4.3 million in federal funding through the Indigenous Animals Harvesting and Meat Processing Grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This financial support aims to enhance meat processing capabilities among select Tribes, fostering stronger connections to traditional food sources and contributing to improved food sovereignty. 
    • The funding is part of a broader $68 million federal appropriation, encompassing initiatives such as cooperative land management to enhance wildlife habitat and fire protection. The holistic approach addresses various aspects of Tribal well-being, including sustainable resource management, wildlife conservation, and community resilience, with a specific focus on empowering tribes to strengthen their food sovereignty. 

    Food sovereignty movement sprouts as bison return to Indigenous communitiesICT News 

    • The reintroduction of bison to Indigenous communities is catalyzing a food sovereignty movement. This initiative signifies a push for self-sufficiency and cultural revitalization, with bison playing a central role in traditional diets and sustainable agriculture. 
    • There is a significant cultural and ecological significance of the bison’s return, it not only provides a valuable food source but also contributes to environmental conservation. The resurgence of bison within Indigenous communities reflects a broader effort to reclaim ancestral food systems and establish a more sustainable and resilient approach to food sovereignty. 
    • “We are learning to care for plant knowledge, growing Indigenous gardens, cultivating ancestral seeds — really old seeds from our relatives the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara: corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers,” said Jill Falcon Ramaker, an assistant professor of community nutrition and sustainable food systems at Montana State. She is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Anishinaabe. 

    Choctaw Nation’s Growing Hope Program preserves traditional heirloom seedsICT News  

    • The Choctaw Growing Hope Program is actively engaged in the preservation of traditional heirloom seeds. This initiative underscores the importance of safeguarding Indigenous plant varieties, promoting biodiversity, and maintaining cultural connections to ancestral agricultural practices. 
    • By focusing on traditional heirloom seeds, the program aims to cultivate resilience within the Choctaw Nation. This approach not only ensures access to culturally significant crops but also contributes to the sustainability of local agriculture, fostering a sense of community, and preserving the Choctaw agricultural heritage for future generations. 
    • The Heirloom Garden is open for tours and was one of the locations visited this summer by participants in IFAI’s Youth Summit.