Policy Brief – August 7, 2023

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Policy Brief Summary:

Congress remains on recess through the month of August, but House Ag Chairman Thompson takes his show on the road for Farm Bill listening sessions in Minnesota and Maine. The former had a university official mention the Farm Bill’s passage as necessary to support their land grant college’s work with tribal students in the state. USDA FNS has two requests for comments on information gathering in their work on nutrition programs, while this is the final week that USDA is accepting submissions for the Department’s Tribal Advisory Committee. We’ve got notes on the discussion from last week’s BIA hybrid consultation concerning the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. In Tribal news, Yakama Nation starts a Tribal Forestry Forest Development Program, while a new Muscogee Nation produce prescription program will offer healthy, fresh foods to participants.  

Congressional Hearings   

Looking Back: 

Congress is in August recess. 

General Ag and Policy News:  

    • Should she win reelection in 2024 and her party keep control of the Senate, Klobuchar told the Minneapolis- St. Paul Star Tribune “I’ve always been a huge, huge supporter of allowing foreign commercial service to do more here at home and in our embassies and make that a priority of theirs to get business for American business.” 
    • House Agriculture Chairman GT Thompson hosted a farm bill listening session in Minnesota on Wednesday, listening to farmers, ranchers, producers, agribusiness owners, and more, as well as reassuring that his top goal is to pass a bipartisan farm bill. No specific tribal-focused agriculture points were brought up in comments.  
    • House Agriculture Chairman partnered with Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) on a July 31 farm bill roundtable to Maine 
    • Highlights: Joan Farini Mundy, President of the University of Maine, and Vice Chancellor for Research commented as follows. 
    • “The reauthorization of the farm bill including increased funding will position our land grant University for even greater State and National impact including through UMaine’s Cooperative.” 
    • “Through the new beginnings for tribal student’s program, Maine is supporting University students serving as mentors to younger Wabanaki students to help Native American students persist in STEM.” 
    • House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member David Scott published an OP-ED on Tuesday, warning Republicans to be cautious of cuts to SNAP to pass a farm bill, and said“The final 2018 farm bill rejected cuts to the program and the expansion of already strict work requirements. Let me be clear: Democrats will roundly reject such efforts again. With the expiration of many farm bill programs quickly approaching, we cannot allow partisan games to slow us down and stand in the way of a bipartisan farm bill that will benefit all Americans.” 

Looking Ahead: Congressional Hearings this week: Aug 7-Aug 13

Congress is in August recess 

Executive Branch Orders and Federal Agency Actions: 

Food Distribution Programs: Improving Access and Parity Proposed RuleUSDA Food and Nutrition Services has posted its proposed rule for improving access and parity in federal nutrition programs under its management. While not the final rule, this is the first opportunity for public comment on these proposed changes.  

The proposed rule impacts four specific programs: 

  • Community Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)  
  • USDA Foods in Disasters 
  • The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) 
  • The Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) 

The comment deadline has not been officially posted, but this section will update and IFAI will offer further analysis in the coming weeks.  

Regulatory/Rulemaking Actions:   

Agency: USDA Food and Nutrition Service 
Action: Request for comment by August 21, 2023 
Why it matters: USDA seeks comment on whether their existing practices of gathering information about program services and customers are relevant, useful or burdensome.  
Posted: Week of July 24 
Agency: USDA Food and Nutrition Service  
Action: Request for comments by August 28, 2023 
Why it matters: USDA seeks comments on whether their existing practices and collection of information regarding the administration of the National School Lunch Program are necessary for the proper performance of the agency. According to 2021 figures from the National Center of Education Statistics, 30% of American Indian / Alaska Native students comprise the population of students that attended high-poverty schools.  Therefore, determining eligibility for Free and Reduced Price Meals and Free Milk in Schools is extremely consequential for this population.  
Posted: Week of July 31 
Agency: USDA  
Action: Solicitation of Nominations for Membership to the Tribal Advisory Committee 
Why it matters: The Tribal Advisory Committee will advise the Secretary of Agriculture on Tribal and Indian affairs, governed by the provisions of FACA.  Establishing a Tribal Advisory Committee was one of the priorities that Indian Country identified for the 2018 Farm Bill. This notice also solicits for nominations for membership on the Tribal Advisory Committee.  
Reposted: Week of August 7th  
Agency: USDA Rural Housing Service  
Action: Announcement of Pilot Programs  
Why it matters: Through various roundtables and consultations with Indian Country, Tribal leaders have consistently identified that lack or substandard housing is one of the barriers to a thriving Tribal agriculture economy. Housing and living conditions in Tribal lands are some of the worst in the United States. According to the National Congress of American Indians, 40% of housing on reservation is considered substandard in comparison to 6% outside Indian country. Furthermore, according to an article from the Washington University in St. Louis, “In 2021, homes in white neighborhoods were appraised over three times more valuable than comparable homes in similar American Indian and Alaska Native neighborhoods located within the same metropolitan area.” 
Posted: Week of August 7th  

Tribal Consultation/Listening Sessions:   

Title of Event:  Indian Arts and Crafts Board – Nation-to-Nation Consultation and Hybrid Consultation
Date/Time: August 2, 2023
See the IFAI policy analysis concerning this issue.
Issues raised included:

  • Products that should/should not be covered in the act
  • Certain cultural products, alcohol, new labor outside of Native production
  • The classifying Native Hawaiian under the scope of “Indian” in the act.
  • How much tribal leader tribal artists/artisans are being considered in weighing these regulations.
  • To see the full notes from this discussion, please click here.
  • Written comments to consultation@bia.gov due by 11:59 ET by September 1, 2023


Title of Event:  Indian Arts and Crafts Board – Hybrid Consultation and Listening Session
August 18, 2023, from 1-4 p.m. MST
About: The Department of the Interior (Department) seeks Tribal and Indian artist input on draft revisions to 25 CFR Chapter II (Indian Arts and Crafts Board). The draft revisions seek to modernize the Indian Arts and Crafts Act’s regulations, which are implemented by the Indian Arts and Crafts Board (Board).
Registration Link 
See the IFAI policy analysis concerning this issue. 

Supreme /Lower Court Decisions:   

No decisions relevant to Tribal food and agriculture were handed down at the time of publication 

Tribal-Congressional News: 

Roots of forestry run deep in the Yakama Nation – ICT News  

  • The Yakama Nation Tribal Forestry Forest Development Program is in charge of looking after the timberlands both now and in the future. Amelia Andy, Landon Smartlowit, and Wayne Watlamet are three young Yakama Nation residents who work as forest development technicians for the program. 
  • The Yakama Nation’s members benefit from the grounds’ production of logs for two mills run by Yakama Forest Products, one of numerous Tribal businesses that offers employment and income in addition to providing water, food, medicine, recreation, and spiritual values. 
  • The Yakama students meet in a Yakama Nation Higher Education Program classroom for online classes when they are not out in the field. When they can congregate in a classroom for higher education, “we think it’s valuable”, Kenning said. Kenning, who has taken Salish classes to better connect with SKC’s Salish-speaking students, believes that learning alongside peers from all tribes and backgrounds is a huge benefit for all students. 

Muscogee Nation to develop ‘produce prescription’ program in Eastern Oklahoma – KGOU 

  • With federal assistance, the Muscogee Nation will create a “produce prescription” program. The Muscogee Nation received a $500,000 grant from the Indian Health Service for the program to lower food insecurity and enhance health. It will improve the Muscogee Nation’s residents’ access to seasonal produce, fruit, and traditional meals. 
  • Healthcare professionals can recommend free or inexpensive fruit to patients by utilizing the concept that food can be medicine. People with food insecurity or illnesses linked to diet may benefit from having easier access to fresh foods. The collaboration between local farmers, food wholesalers, and business owners is another aspect of produce prescription programs, as is nutrition education. 

Minnesota tribe sets rules to safeguard wild rice and water supply (michiganradio.org)-Michigan Radio  

  • The White Earth Band moved across North America in the west for many years after being instructed by an ancestral prophecy to travel where “food grows on water.” One of the seven Ojibwe tribes in Minnesota, White Earth discovered that the prophecy had come true near the numerous shallow, clean lakes found in the state’s northern woodlands, where brilliant green stalks of wild rice are abundantly grown. 
  • The tribe’s 829,440-acre reservation near the border with North Dakota is surrounded by industrial-sized dairies, hog facilities, and large-scale agricultural farms, posing a danger to their way of life. All of Minnesota’s farming counties have recorded damaging nutrient pollution caused by agricultural operations, which also result in significant groundwater withdrawals for livestock and irrigation. 
  • In response, the White Earth Nation is implementing a number of enforced, obligatory pollution control and water conservation measures that challenge the federal government’s and states’ acceptance of voluntary practices over the past 50 years. 
  • The tribe is essentially establishing its own power to give permits for these farming expansions by making use of its position as a sovereign nation as defined by a treaty. One of the increasing numbers of Native American tribes using their power to safeguard Tribal water supplies is the White Earth Band. 

Indigenous-Led Toptana Technologies Helps Close Digital Divides -Daily Yonder 

  • The Quinault Indian Nation in Washington is attempting to address the issues caused by the digital gap that impact rural and Tribal populations. The first of its kind Indigenous-owned Internet infrastructure and technology business, Toptana Technologies, is committed to providing access to underprivileged and unserved communities. With the intention of extending access to remote people throughout Oregon and Washington, Toptana and the tribe are attempting to bring the first subsea cable landing and backhaul station to Washington in more than 20 years. Along I-5, the project will provide effective interconnection between the Olympic Peninsula and Seattle and Hillsboro, Oregon.  
  •  The Quinault Indian Nation owns and runs Toptana Technologies, which, enables the tribe to prioritize needy areas and ensure that they are getting the best return on investment in terms of how they are improving services to Tribal citizens and bringing equity to things like education, health care, and jobs. 

Indigenous Connectivity Institute unveils urgent calls to bridge the digital divide Tribal Business News 

  • Money won’t be enough to fix the broadband problems in Indian Country.  Implementing long-lasting solutions is still difficult, despite high funding levels and increased federal interest in bridging the digital divide in Indian Country. According to input obtained from attendees at the May Indigenous Connectivity Summit, which was held in Anchorage by the Indigenous Connectivity Institute (ICI) of broadband NGO Connect Humanity. The summit, which brings together Indigenous leaders, network providers, legislators, and other stakeholders, strives to increase Indigenous communities in Canada and the United States’ access to inexpensive and dependable internet. 
  •  The goals of the 2023 calls include removing obstacles to finance as well as shared decision-making and co-management between federal governments of the United States and Canada and Tribal sovereign entities. The suggested calls to action include a wide range of topics, from educating government organizations on Tribal sovereignty and cultural competency to eliminating onerous grant funding restrictions. 

Red Lake, Tocabe Indigenous join to buy 50% stake in Alaska seafood firmTribal Business News 

  • Two Native enterprises purchased a stake in Arctic Circle Wild Seafood, a seafood purveyor based in the Inupiat Eskimo Village of Kotzebue, Alaska. Tocabe Indigenous Marketplace, a Denver, Colo.-based restaurant and food retailer, and Red Lake Inc., the business arm of the Red Lake Nation, each purchased a 25% ownership stake in the seafood business. Financial terms were not disclosed. 
  • Red Lake, Inc.’s chief development officer, Jaycob Robinson, declared that his organization was “thrilled” to join in the acquisition of Arctic Circle Wild Seafood in order to broaden its portfolio of food-production businesses. The 1919-founded supplier of freshwater walleye, Red Lake Nation Fisher, is also owned by the Tribal economic development organization.   

New legislation aims to strengthen USDA support for Tribal communities Tribal Business News 

  • A bipartisan bill was sponsored by U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer and Nick Langworthy to improve the efficiency of USDA programs for Tribal communities. The REACH Our Tribes Act, which was presented to the House on August 1, aims to strengthen Tribal peoples’ sense of agency by giving them a say in budgetary decisions, enhancing data openness, and streamlining access to resources. Co-sponsoring the bill with Democrats Kilmer and Langworthy from the state of Washington were Republicans Doug LaMalfa from California and Nicholas Lanworthy from New York.   
  •  Declaring that the REACH Our Tribes Act is intended to solve these problems, Kilmer emphasized the difficulties Tribal communities have in gaining access to USDA programs for economic development. In order to foster cooperation and fair decision-making in budget allocations and reauthorizations, the law establishes a formal Tribal consultation mechanism inside USDA budget planning. 

Minnesota becomes 23rd state to legalize recreational marijuana — but only tribal nations will start selling it right awayFortune 

  • Red Lake Nation and White Earth Nation are going to begin selling recreational marijuana. 

In Rural Alaska and Elsewhere USDA is Helping Kids get the Nutrition They NeedAnchorage Daily News 

  • Opinion piece highlights USDA programs, like the FDPIR 638 Demonstration Project