Policy Brief – February 20, 2024

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Policy Brief Summary

Last week, there were three congressional hearings pertinent to Tribal food and agriculture. Two were in the House Natural Resources Committee concerning modernization of the Federal Land Management Act and Tribal economic development, particularly as it relates to food sovereignty. Additionally, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack was a witness for the House Agriculture Committee where he discussed topics such as Indigenous agriculture and nutrition program spending.  

There is one Federal Register notice of particular importance this week given the potential for reallocation to other state agencies of unexpended SNAP funds for employment and training programs.  

The USDA recently announced a consultation on March 15, 2024, regarding SNAP’s proposed rules on work requirements and EBT Card Security Measures. The consultation is online only. Learn more and register at bit.ly/MARCHCONSUSDA. 

This week, Tribal News covers a bison conservation partnership with the Fort Peck Reservation, Arizona-based sustainable agriculture that incorporates Tribal agriculture training, and the importance of Indigenous voices in subsistence resources and global indigenous initiatives.  

Congressional updates   

Looking Back

Hearing: House Natural Resources Committee- Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, at 2:00 pm ET 

Topic: “Environmental Economic Decision-making” 


  •  One of the topics of discussion was the Bureau of Land Management Public Lands Rule, which aims to modernize the Federal Land Management Act. This Act will make sure that communities and Tribes have a seat at the table, as well as consider the conservation impacts of development. 

Hearing: House Natural Resources Committee- Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, at 10:00 am ET 

Topic: “Economic Diversification to Create Prosperous Tribal Economies” 


  • Rep. Jared Huffman [D-CA] brought up the issue of food sovereignty in conjunction with economic development. Raymond Bacon spoke on restoring the Klamath salmon population and a partnership with Cal Fresh to support refrigeration units to help with food preservation.  

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 


  • Indigenous Agriculture 
  • Rep. Jill Tokuda questioned Sec. Vilsack about the need for a pilot program that could connect farmers, ranchers, and producers with the support and help that is inaccessible in the current way it is offered. 
  • Sec. Vilsack said that such cooperative agreements are already in place and designed to provide outreach to historically underserved producers. 
  • Nutrition program spending 
  • There was debate on the Thrifty Food Plan, the budget for SNAP and WIC. 
  • Some Congressional members suggested holding back a farm bill until the next Congress. 
  • Climate-smart agriculture programs 
  • Sec. Vilsack stated that there is more demand for climate-smart agriculture programs and that current conservation programs are oversubscribed. 
  • Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) 
  • Vilsack defended the USDA’s use of CCC funds as many members of Congress questioned his authority to use this money. 

Looking Ahead

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

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? 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: USDA Food and Nutrition Service 

Action: OMB Review Comments Request about Recordkeeping for Employment and Training Program Activity Report by March 18, 2024. 

Why it matters: FNS will review Information collected through Employment and Training funding requests to ensure that States are running SNAP efficiently and economically. FNS will reallocate unexpended funds to State agencies as appropriate and applicable.  

Posted: Week of February 19. 

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.  

Tribal Consultation and Listening Sessions/Advisory Committee Meetings:

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. 

Title of Event: March 2024 SNAP Consultation – Proposed Rules on Work Requirements and EBT Card Security Measures 

About: USDA Food & Nutrition Services will hold a Tribal consultation concerning two proposed rules possibly impacting Tribal nations that will (1) update SNAP work requirements to match the ones laid out in the law by Congress in 2023 (Public Law 118-5) and (2) reduce stolen SNAP benefits and fraud by proposing changes in existing regulations that will modernize EBT technology.  

Dates: Friday, March 15, 2024 

Time: 1-3 p.m. EST 

Location: Online only, must register here. 

Link: For the Dear Tribal Leader invitation, proxy letter template and updated scheduling information, please see the ‘Upcoming Tribal Consultations’ section of the Office of Tribal Relations Website here.

Court Decisions:   

U.S. District Court Eastern District of Washington: 


The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, et.al., v. Teck Cominco Metals, LTD. , No. 2:04-CV-00256-SAB (Feb. 6, 2024).  


The Court held that the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation could not recover cultural damages for injuries to the Columbia River caused by discharge from a metal company’s smelter, and that cultural uses of water and soil by the Tribe are not recoverable as natural resource damages under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”). The Court observed “[n]either the statute nor the regulations reference a cultural or tribal ‘connection’ or ‘relationship’ with a particular resource, let alone possible recovery from loss or damage to that connection or relationship.” 

Tribal News:

Yellowstone bison shipped to Fort Peck ReservationBillings Gazette 

  • Yellowstone National Park and the Fort Peck Indian Reservation collaborate on a bison transfer program to restore bison populations. The initiative seeks to address conservation challenges and promote cultural revitalization by relocating Yellowstone bison to Tribal lands. 


Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture teaches next-generation farmers sustainable practicesTucson Sentinel  

  • The Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture is leading efforts to educate and train the next generation of farmers in sustainable practices. Located in Ajo, Arizona, the center offers hands-on learning experiences and workshops to teach sustainable farming techniques such as water conservation, soil health management, and permaculture principles.  
  • The Ajo CSA program trains three to five aspiring farmers … in Ajo and on the Tohono O’odham Nation. The eight- to 11-month program allows apprentices to visit local farms, establish their own growing space and attend workshops to learn about local sustainable farming techniques. 


Interior, Agriculture Depts. Strengthen Alaska Tribal Representation on Federal Subsistence BoardIndian Gaming 

  • The U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture continue to make efforts to enhance Alaska Tribal representation on the Federal Subsistence Board. This move aims to strengthen Tribal involvement in federal decisions regarding subsistence hunting and fishing rights in Alaska. The Interior Department’s Secretary signed an order appointing Alaska Native leaders to the board, ensuring that Indigenous voices are better represented in managing subsistence resources. This decision reflects a commitment to Tribal sovereignty and collaboration in natural resource management. 
  • The Federal Subsistence Board plays a crucial role in making decisions related to subsistence hunting and fishing rights in Alaska. By ensuring that Alaska Native leaders have representation on the board, there is a recognition of their traditional ecological knowledge and expertise in managing subsistence resources sustainably.  


Indigenous Voices: Mallory Stinnett’s Journey With Global Indigenous Youth Caucus | University of ArkansasUniversity of Arkansas 

  • Mallory Stinnett’s journey with the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, highlights her efforts to amplify Indigenous voices on a global scale. As a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation and a doctoral student at the University of Arkansas, Stinnett has been actively involved in advocating for Indigenous rights and environmental justice. Through her work with the caucus, she has engaged in international dialogues, collaborated with Indigenous youth from diverse backgrounds, and contributed to policy discussions on issues such as climate change, land sovereignty, and cultural preservation.