Policy Brief – January 9, 2024

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Policy Brief Summary


Congress is back in session this week, but there are no Tribal food and agriculture hearings scheduled. 

Several boards and committees are still open for nomination submissions, with a couple having imminent deadlines: USDA Plant Variety Protection Board (January 15) and Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board (January 17).  

There are two notable Federal Register Notices; one regarding an interim final rule on Summer Meal Programs and BIA’s updated list of federally recognized Tribes. 

Tribal News highlights the efforts of Tribal communities like the reintroduction of bison for ecological projects and the importance of restoring native species at Wind River and Colville Confederated Tribes. The University of Oklahoma is conducting a study on ecological energy needs in Indigenous communities in Oklahoma and Mexico, while Green Bay, WI will host a free conference focused on how Indigenous knowledge can combat climate change.

Congressional updates   

Looking Back

Congress has been out on the holiday recess.

    Looking Ahead

    Congress is back in session, but there were no hearings relevant to Tribal food and agriculture scheduled for this coming week at the time of publication. 

    All eyes are on Congress to avoid the government shutdown (again).   


    Executive Branch and Federal Agency Actions: 

    There were no executive branch or federal agency actions at the time of publication. 

    Nomination opportunities: 


    What is the nomination for? USDA Climate Change Fellows Programs 

    Description: USDA is seeking applicants for their Climate Change Fellows Program (CCFP). This program allows USDA to hire Climate Change Fellows through a time-limited appointment to work on projects on climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts across the USDA. There are current positions open in the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  

    Deadline for submission? January 31, 2024. 

    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: 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: Interim Final Rule re Establishing the Summer EBT Program and Rural Non-Congregate Option in the Summer Meal Programs; Comment submission deadline by April 29, 2024. 

    Why it matters: This interim rule went into effect December 29,2023 and amends the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and National School Lunch Program’s Seamless Summer Option (SSO) so that program operators could provide SFSP and SSO meals using a non-congregate approach. This means eligible children, especially those residing in rural areas, do not need to travel to traditional congregate sites to participate. Secondly, this interim final rule allows the new Summer EBT program to use EBT cards so that families can purchase food for their children. Initial stakeholder feedback (including ITOs) was generally positive about changes to SFSP and SSO, with some concerns about the definition of “rural.” USDA consulted with Tribal leaders on Summer EBT in May 2023. ITOs shared robust feedback on three specific topics: the benefit delivery model for ITOs, enrolling eligible children, and de-duplication of benefits 

    Posted: Week of January 8 


    Agency: DOI Bureau of Indian Affairs  

    Action: Notice regarding Indian Entities Recognized by and Eligible to Receive Services from the Bureau of Indian Affairs 

    Why it matters: Updated from August 1, 2023, this list contains 574 tribal entities. Due to their status as Indian Tribes, these entities are eligible for funding and services from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). BIA continues the practice of listing Alaska Native entities separate from Indian Tribal Entities within the contiguous 48 States.  

    Posted: Week of January 8 

    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:   

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

    Tribal News:

     First foods dinner and circle dance: Umatilla tribes celebrate winter solsticeOBP 

    • The cultural significance of the Winter Solstice in the Northwest serves as an Indian New Year for Indigenous communities in the region. This perspective sheds light on the diverse ways in which various cultures mark the passage of time. 
    • The ceremonial practices and traditions associated with the Winter Solstice as the Indian New Year include lots of food, dancing, and ceremony.  
    • There is a deep connection between the Winter Solstice celebrations and the natural environment, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation has a deep-rooted relationship between food the land, especially salmon. 

    Reintroduction of bison on the Wind River Reservation promotes cultural revitalizationWyoming News Now 

    • After the 1800s bison had been eliminated from the Wind River area, but a new push for reintroduction allowed the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho to reintroduce 10 bison for an ecological project.  
    • Jason Baldes (Eastern Shoshone, board member on the Intertribal Buffalo Council and also serves as the Tribal Buffalo Coordinator for the Tribal Partnerships Program of the National Wildlife Federation) said the work, “is about cultural revitalization, not only reconnecting to this buffalo for nutrition and spiritual, ceremonial purposes, but really restoring a keystone species.  this animal is an ecosystem engineer, it promotes biodiversity… It’s important for climate resiliency and carbon storage by the way they graze. Their ecological benefits should be reason enough to bring this animal back to the landscape … We feed our families by hunting and fishing and gathering, that’s cultural practices. but we have to have the landscape and the animals to do that.” 

    Free event will explore how Native knowledge can combat climate changeMilwaukee Journal Sentinel 

    • The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is hosting a free event on February 19 in Green Bay, bringing together Tribal leaders and government officials to discuss how Indigenous knowledge can combat climate change. The event aims to explore the ways in which Indigenous communities, often considered the original stewards of the land, draw on their traditional practices to protect and preserve natural resources. 
    •  The event will feature a panel discussion with Tribal leaders and experts, including members of the Oneida White Corn Co-op, an executive secretary of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, a consultant for the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, and the acting national Tribal liaison for the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. The aim is to launch a conversation on how Indigenous wisdom can contribute to making the land more resilient, the air cleaner, and the water safer, addressing the critical juncture in our relationship with nature. The event is open to the public, offering attendees a chance to sample Indigenous cuisine. 

    Bringing Back the BighornModern Farmer 

    • The Colville Confederated Tribes’ ongoing efforts to restore native species and ecosystems in eastern Washington emphasize the importance of native species to the Tribes’ culture and well-being. Their focus includes the reintroduction of bighorn sheep, whose populations suffered due to diseases brought by European settlers’ domesticated animals. 
    • The construction of the Grand Coulee Dam in 1942 drastically altered the landscape and disrupted the traditional way of life for the Colville Confederated Tribes. The dam blocked salmon-spawning habitats, leading to the disappearance of a vital food source and the disruption of ecosystems that supported various species, affecting the tribes’ cultural and economic foundations. 
    • The Colville Confederated Tribes’ wildlife management approach involves a holistic perspective that goes beyond monetary value. The restoration efforts focus on reintroducing various native species, including elk, sharp-tailed grouse, bighorn sheep, pronghorns, lynx, salmon, and buffalo. The Tribes emphasize the intrinsic value of these species to their community, promoting harmony within the ecological balance rather than relying solely on hunting licenses for revenue generation. 

    Green Energy Research Addresses Indigenous NeedsMirage News 

    • The University of Oklahoma is undertaking a green energy research initiative addressing the needs of Indigenous communities. The research aims to develop sustainable and culturally appropriate energy solutions that align with the unique requirements and perspectives of Indigenous populations. 
    • This study will be conducted by the university in cooperation with researchers from the Pawnee Nation in Oklahoma, as well as Unixhidza, a Zapotec autonomous university in Mexico. 
    • The green energy research emphasizes community engagement and collaboration with Indigenous groups. Researchers are working closely with these communities to ensure that the development of renewable energy projects is culturally sensitive, environmentally sustainable, and aligns with the priorities and preferences of Indigenous peoples. 
    • “There’s a national push for a sustainable energy transition, with solar and wind being a major focus. But, as you can imagine, solar panels require a lot of land,” Diana Denham, professor of Geography and Environmental Sustainability, said. “With new research in agrivoltaics, the same land can be used for energy production and agriculture as well as other environmental planning goals.”