Policy Brief – February 13, 2024

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Policy Brief Summary

Senate Indian Affairs Committee heard testimony last week on several bills supporting Tribal self-determination and self-governance. This week, there will be two Congressional hearings. The first is the House Natural Resource Committee hearing on economic diversification for Tribal economies. The second is the House Agriculture Committee, who will hear testimony from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.  


The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is holding the first of three 2024 consultations with the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations Programs and Tribal Leaders Group on February 16 in Washington D.C. If you’re a Tribal FDPIR staffer or leader with a commodities program who is interested, please email jvanpool@uark.edu to learn about the in-person FDPIR Tribal Caucus this Thursday. 

There are three new Federal Register notices to highlight: The submission deadline for Tribal nations wanting to participate in the Tribal Self-Governance Program, USDA’s semi-annual regulatory agenda, and comments requested about proposed rate adjustments for Indian irrigation projects.  

Tribal News varies this week with articles ranging from food and Tribal sovereignty to the agenda for USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum, investments in crop insurance, and the important work that universities do in support of Tribal youth and Food and Agriculture development. Haskell Indian Nation’s University will offer both degree and certificate options in agriculture and finance, ensuring students have a deep understanding of lending processes specific to Indian Country. 

Congressional updates   

Looking Back

Hearing: Senate Indian Affairs Committee–  Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024 

Topic: Pending Legislation- S.2385 “Tribal Access to Clean Water Act of 2023”, S.2868 a bill to accept the request to revoke the charter of incorporation of the Lower Sioux Indian Community in the State of Minnesota, S.3022– “Indian Health Care Workforce Parity Act of 2023”, S. 2796 to provide for the equitable settlement of certain Indian land disputes regarding land in Illinois, and S. 3230 “Winnebago Land Transfer Act.” 

Highlights: Congressional witnesses supported S. 2385, S.2868, S.2796, and S.3230, stating that these bills are consistent with the administration’s support for Tribal self-determination and self-governance. 

Looking Ahead

Hearing: House Natural Resources Committee- Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024 at 10:00 am ET 
Topic: “Economic Diversification to Create Prosperous Tribal Economies” 
Witnesses: Not Listed 


Hearing: House Agriculture Committee Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024 at 10:00 am ET 
Topic: Agriculture Department 
Witnesses: Secretary of the Dept. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack 

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? Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Task Force for Reviewing the Connectivity and Technology Needs of Precision Agriculture in the United States. 

Description: The Task Force provides advice and recommendations to the FCC on how to assess and advance the deployment of broadband Internet access service on unserved agricultural land to promote precision agriculture. The working groups will include consideration of how connectivity can improve sustainability in agricultural production. 

Deadline for submission? Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until all positions are filled. 

Where can I submit a nomination? Submit by e-mail to PrecisionAgTF@fcc.gov  

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  

Action: Notice and request for comments re SNAP-Ed Intervention Submission Form and Scoring Tool; Comments requested by April 2, 2024. 

Why it matters: Revisions to the SNAP-Ed Intervention Scoring Tool and SNAP-Ed Intervention Submission Form are intended to improve user experience by simplifying scoring criteria and clarifying the information requested for certain fields. The Submission Form and Scoring Tool are designed to enable SNAP-Ed implementers and the review committee to determine if the intervention submitted for inclusion in the SNAP-Ed Toolkit is evidence-based and uses one or more of the required approaches. 

Posted: Week of February 5. 

Agency: DOI Bureau of Indian Affairs 

Action: Notice of Submission Deadline for Applications to Participate in Tribal Self-Governance Program; the submission deadline is March 1, 2024. 

Why it matters: The Secretary of the Interior may select not more than 50 new Indian Tribes per year to begin participation in the tribal self-governance program.  

Posted: Week of February 12. 

Agency: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) 

Action: Proposed Revisions to the National Handbook of Conservation Practices for NRCS; Comments requested by March 4, 2024.  

Why it matters: NRCS is providing an opportunity for the public to provide comments on revisions to the conservation practice standards in the National Handbook of Conservation Practices. NRCS is proposing revisions to conservation practice standards such as Field Border (Code 386), Grazing Management (Code 528), and Wetland Restoration (Code 657). This has been a priority for the Regional Tribal Conservation Advisory Council.  

Posted: Week of February 12. 

Agency: USDA Office of the Secretary 

Action: Notice of the Semiannual Regulatory Agenda for Fall of 2023 

Why it matters: This semiannual agenda provides a summary of significant and non-significant regulations being developed in USDA. This provides an opportunity for Tribal Nations and organizations to monitor federal regulations that may impact Tribal food and agriculture.  

Posted: Week of February 12.  

Agency: DOI Bureau of Indian Affairs  

Action: Comments Requested on Proposed Rate Adjustments for Indian Irrigation Projects; Comments requested by April 8, 2024. 

Why it matters: The Bureau of Indian Affairs has to establish irrigation assessment rates to recover the costs of administering, operating, maintaining, and rehabilitating irrigation projects. This notice affects those who own or lease land within the assessable acreage of one of BIA’s irrigation projects or those who have a carriage agreement with one of BIA’s irrigation projects. Rate adjustments will be effective for the 2024 calendar year.  

Posted: Week of February 12.  

Agency: USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) 

Action: Submission for OMB Review Regarding Blood and Tissue Collection and Recordkeeping; Comments to be submitted by February 8, 2024.  

Why it matters: Part of APHIS’ mission is to monitor and test for livestock disease, which can be done through maintaining livestock movement records and collecting blood and tissue samples. Information collected is expected to identify and prevent interstate movement of unhealthy livestock animals with diseases within the United States. Specifically, the information collected is used for activities such as rapidly confirming livestock disease occurrences through reporting and sampling, as well as tracing the source of diseases.  

Posted: Week of January 22 

 Agency: USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service  

Action: Notice of Funding Opportunity for the Value-Added Producer Grants for FY2024; Application deadline is April 11, 2024.  

Why it matters: This grant program is intended for Independent Producers, Agricultural Producer Groups, Farmer and Rancher Cooperatives, and Majority-Controlled Producer-Based Businesses to start or expand value-added activities related to processing and/or marketing of Value-Added Agricultural Products. RBCS estimates that approximately $30 million will be made available for FY2024.  

Posted: Week of January 22 

Tribal Consultation and Listening Sessions/Advisory Committee Meetings:

Title of Event: FDPIR Tribal Leader Consultation Work Group Tribal Consultation 

About: This consultation is the first of three annual USDA Food and Nutrition Service consultations with the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations. 

Date: Friday, February 16, 2024 

Time: 9 am- 5 pm ET 


U.S. Department of Agriculture 
1400 Independence Ave SW
Washington, D.C. 20250
Room TBD 

Online connections to participate in the Consultation are available as well. 

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: USDA Tribal Advisory Committee Meeting 

About: The USDA Office of Tribal Relations announced a meeting of the Tribal Advisory Committee. The purpose of the committee is to provide advice and guidance to USDA on matters related to Tribal and Indian Affairs. A virtual webinar with a call-in option will be held on Friday, February 23, 2024, from 12:00 p.m. to approximately 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET). Public comments to the Tribal Advisory Committee may be submitted by February 16th, 2024 via email at Tribal.relations@usda.gov  

Date: Friday, February 23, 2024 

Time: 12:00 pm- 7:00 pm ET 

Location: Online.  The public is asked to pre-register for the meeting by February 16th. 

Court Decisions:   

District Court of Oregon: 

The Klamath Tribes, a federally recognized Indian Tribe v. United States Bureau of Reclamation, Klamath Water Users Assoc. & Klamath Irrigation Dist., No. 1:21-CV-00556-CL (Feb.7, 2024) 

The Bureau of Reclamation violated the Endangered Species Act, Administrative Procedures Act, and National Environmental Policy Act when it ordered water to be diverted from the Klamath River to irrigators, jeopardizing the existence of the C’waam and Koptu fish. 


Eastern District of Wisconsin: 

Legend Lake Property Owners Association Inc. v. United States Dept. of the Interior, et.al., No. 23-C-480 (Feb. 6, 2024) 

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) properly found that the Menominee Restoration Act (a law permitting the BIA to accept the real property of members of the Menominee Tribe into trust, if transferred to it by the Menominee owner or owners) conflicted with and preempted a homeowners’ association’s restrictive covenants that would have barred the BIA trust acquisition of certain properties. 

Tribal News:

Nutrition Expert Denee Bex Honors her Indigenous Heritage with Inventive Culinary EducationSanta Barbara Independent 

  • Denee Bex, a registered dietitian from the Navajo Nation, advocates for a holistic approach to nutrition in Indigenous communities, challenging stereotypes and emphasizing cultural traditions and connections in mindful eating practices. 
  • Bex promotes practical and achievable healthy eating habits, incorporating Indigenous ingredients into meals while addressing systemic issues like lack of access to clean water and electricity, recognizing them as fundamental to overall well-being beyond just nutritional factors. 
  • Denee Bex’s efforts to promote healthy eating habits and incorporate Indigenous ingredients into meals helps support broader goals of improving nutrition and food access across Indian Country. 


Tribal groups trying to remove dairy from USDA dietary guidelines because of lactose intoleranceMilwaukee Journal Sentinel 

  • Former Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez advocates for promoting Indigenous foods nationally and removing dairy from federal dietary guidelines due to its perceived health detriments, particularly in Native American communities. 
  • Efforts led by Nez and supported by organizations like the National Congress of American Indians aim to influence the USDA’s dietary guidelines, with recent developments including a food simulation study specific to Native Americans to address representation gaps in the determination of dietary recommendations. 
  • The USDA Dietary Guidelines impact federal nutrition programs serving Indian Country, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the National School Lunch Program, and more. Changes to dietary guidelines could impact eligible foods. Learn more about federal nutrition program’s impact on Indian Country by checking out our research and infographics online: indigenousfoodandag.com. 


Native leaders urge Congress to bolster funding for land consolidation in Indian CountryTribal Business News 

  • Native leaders, including representatives from various Tribes, urged Congress to support land consolidation efforts in Indian Country, emphasizing the need for increased funding and resources. 
  • Central concerns discussed revolved around the Land Buy Back Program’s conclusion in 2022, leaving a gap in support for landback efforts, with calls for more funding to address fractionation issues and promote economic development through agricultural and land consolidation initiatives. 


A Fight for Food SovereigntyICT News 

  • The Unkožupi Project, led by Charlotte “Charle” Alamanza and other Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota women, aims to revive traditional plant foods and medicines within their community, combating the negative health effects of processed foods introduced post-relocation. 
  • Through initiatives like community gardens and seed exchanges, the project seeks to restore cultural connections to traditional foods and promote food sovereignty, sparking increased community interest and participation over time. 
  • IFAI’s resources, publications, webinars and more may provide useful information for those looking to expand or begin food sovereignty efforts: indigenousfoodandag.com. 


Tribe fights against concerning issue devastating the Great Lakes: ‘It’s about our life’ MSN 

  • The Ojibwe people, who have historically lived and fished around Lake Superior, are facing threats to their safety and way of life due to increasingly dangerous levels of “forever chemicals” polluting the waters. 
  • Pollution from commercial operations, such as mining and manufacturing plants, has led to high levels of PFAS/PFOS chemicals in the water, posing serious health risks to both the environment and the people who rely on fishing for their livelihood. Efforts to address these concerns include government proposals to strengthen water safety standards and tribal initiatives to protect their treaty rights and pursue legislative action. 
  • The contamination of fish in Lake Superior with PFAS/PFOS chemicals raises concerns about food safety and consumer health. Tribal Nations from around the Great Lakes region and their citizens rely heavily on the fishing industry both monetarily and as a key, traditional food source. 


Navajo Nation Receives $13.5 Million for Crop Insurance Funding  — Native News Online 

  • The Navajo Nation Council’s Resources and Development Committee received a $13.5 million check from CKP Insurance for indemnities related to the 2023 crop year, purchased through the USDA’s Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage Pilot Insurance Program. 
  • Crop insurance serves as crucial support for Navajo ranchers and farmers during drought conditions, with indemnity proceeds funding infrastructure projects through the Navajo Nation Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF) Management and Expenditure Program. 
  • Ahead of the current Farm Bill cycle, IFAI as the research partner of the Native Farm Bill Coalition, facilitated roundtable discussions across Indian Country. Producers and Tribal citizens regularly discussed the lack of access to risk management tools, like insurance. Learn more about risk management opportunities within the next Farm Bill in the NFBC’s publication, Gaining Ground. 


Native News Weekly (February 11, 2024): D.C. BriefsNative News Online 

  • USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum features a dedicated session on Indigenous Knowledge for the first time, highlighting collaborations between USDA, researchers, and tribal governments to address challenges in American agriculture. The session leader is USDA Office of Tribal Relations Director Heather Dawn Thompson and is open to the public on February 16 from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. ET. 


Lawmakers wrangle over rescissions from 2022 law for farm billRoll Call  

  • House lawmakers are facing challenges over the use of funds allocated in the 2022 health, climate, and tax law to support the farm bill. 
  • Disagreement over the use of funds from the 2022 law, along with disagreements regarding energy funding and treatment of SNAP, could hinder the bipartisan support typically seen for the Farm Bill. 


New Haskell Indian Nations University educational partnership to improve opportunities in Tribal agricultureThe Lawrence Times 

  • The Bureau of Indian Education and the Native American Agriculture Fund have announced a partnership to establish a new agriculture business degree program at Haskell Indian Nations University. This program aims to enhance financial literacy among Native farmers and ranchers by covering topics such as lending operations, risk management, and regulatory compliance. 
  • The program, housed within Haskell’s business school, will offer degree and certificate options in agriculture and finance, ensuring students have a deep understanding of lending processes specific to Indian Country. This initiative represents a significant step towards nurturing the next generation of skilled professionals who can support economic opportunities for Native American farmers and ranchers, bridging the gap between educational needs and agricultural financial literacy. 


University Program Celebrates 10 Years of Investing in Native YouthUniversity of Arkansas News 

  • The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative is accepting applications for the 10th annual Native Youth in Food and Agriculture Leadership Summit, scheduled for July 15-23. This summit aims to provide Native youth with opportunities to explore various aspects of food, agriculture, and nutrition while fostering professional and academic skills development. 
  • The summit covers agricultural policy and production areas such as agricultural business and finance, land stewardship and conservation, agricultural law and policy, nutrition and health, and now, animal science. Applications close on April 1, and interested individuals can apply using the following link: https://www.indigenousfoodandag.com/youth-programs/