Policy Brief – November 7, 2023

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Policy Brief Summary

Last week, the House Natural Resources Committee discussed members’ legislation covering climate change impacts on Tribal communities and potential Farm Bill priorities in Tribal aquaculture. This week, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee holds a hearing on the decline of salmon and its health impact on Alaska Native Communities on the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers. 

USDA’s Farm Service Agency published a Federal Register notice on a funding opportunity for the Emergency Relief Program for losses suffered due to disaster events in 2022.  

BIA has three leasing regulations consultations coming up the week of November 13, with IFAI working on a briefing note and online Tribal caucus for Tribal government staff and producers to take place on November 9 at 2 p.m. CST.  

In Tribal agriculture and nutrition news, Feeding America is partnering with five Tribal communities on food production and emergency feeding provisions. Sovereign Equity Fund partners with six Tribal colleges and universities to promote Indigenous foodways, while a piece in the Washington Post covers the Penobscot Nation’s conservation work in its historical lands in Maine.  

Congressional updates   

Hearing: Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Nov. 1, 2023  

Topic: The Science of Extreme Event Attribution: How Climate Change is Fueling Severe Weather Events 

Highlights: This hearing did not have specific information relevant to Indian Country or Agriculture. 

Hearing: House Natural Resources Committee, Nov.2, 2023  

Topic: Member Day 


  • Rep. Derek Kilmer (WA-6) has/is introducing a couple of climate change and essential community facilities bills specifically for Tribal nations impacted by rising sea levels and natural disasters. They aim to help fund efforts for re-location to higher ground and streamline federal resources for disasters. 
  • Congressman Mike Ezell (MS-4) mentioned his co-sponsorship of the AQUAA Act that establishes a sustainable offshore aquaculture regulatory system in the U.S. This bill supports the development of Tribal aquaculture programs. 
  • Congressman Dusty Johnson (SD-1) discussed several Tribal-centric bills but none were agriculture/nutrition focused. 

Looking ahead: 

Field Hearing: Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Nov. 10 at 1 p.m. AKST/5 p.m. EST 

Topic: The Impact of the Historic Salmon Declines on the Health and Well-Being of Alaska Native Communities Along the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers 

Witnesses: Invited witnesses will provide testimony during the Field Hearing, and members of the public will have the opportunity to provide comments on the record during the Listening Session, which will begin upon the conclusion of the Field Hearing. 

Written Comments: SCIA is accepting additional written comments to testimony@indian.senate.gov  


Executive branch and federal agency actions: 

There were no Executive Branch announcements related to Tribal food and agriculture at the time of publication.

    Regulatory/Rulemaking actions:

    Agency: USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) 

    Action: Notice of Funding Opportunity for Emergency Relief Program 2022; comment submission deadline by Jan. 2, 2024 

    Why it matters: FSA will provide payments to eligible crop producers for losses due to qualifying disaster events including wildfires, hurricanes, floods, derechos, excessive heat, tornadoes, winter storms, freeze (including a polar vortex), smoke exposure, excessive moisture, qualifying drought, and related conditions that occurred in calendar year 2022. 

    Posted: Week of Nov. 6 

    Agency: USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) 

    Action: Comment Request regarding Information Collection Requirements for SNAP; submission date by Nov. 30, 2023 

    Why it matters: FNS is interested in exploring how State agencies define and measure the quality of customer service for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) applicants and participants, particularly strategies that go beyond the minimum requirements set by FNS; and how State SNAP agencies implement and refine their customer service approaches. FNS is looking to review existing case studies, reports, and data on customer services strategies and approaches.  

    Posted: Week of Nov. 6 

    Agency: USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) 

    Action: Comment Request regarding Information Collection Requirements for WIC; submission date by Dec. 4, 2023 

    Why it matters: The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires USDA to implement a program to recognize exemplary breastfeeding support practices at Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) local agencies and clinics. Information collected through this program will be used to evaluate components of existing breastfeeding programs and support within WIC local agencies, to recognize local WIC agencies that provide exemplary breastfeeding programs and support services, and to provide examples of model programs to motivate local agencies and clinics to strengthen their breastfeeding promotion and support activities. 

    Posted: Week of Nov. 6  

    Agency: USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) 

    Action: Final Rule Notice re: Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (to be published soon) 

    Why it matters: USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is adding new provisions to organic livestock and poultry production requirements. The new provisions pertain to livestock handling and transport, slaughter, and poultry living conditions; specifically related to standards for six key areas that include: outdoor space requirements, indoor and outdoor living conditions, and poultry stocking densities. AMS expects that these new provisions will address the inconsistent application of organic livestock standards that has likely contributed to a market failure. AMS reports that Tribal leaders did not raise questions or concerns during and after Tribal consultation in Sept. 2021. 

    Posted: Week of Oct. 30 

    Agency: Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund 

    Action: Notice of funding opportunity for Small Dollar Loan Program (SDLP); Various deadlines attached to steps in the application process with final submission date by December 20, 2023. 

    Why it matters: The SDLP provides grants to (1) establish a loan loss reserve fund to cover losses on small dollar loans; and (2) for technical assistance on technology, staff support, and other activities needed to establish and maintain an SDLP.  

    Posted: Week of Oct. 30 

    Agency: DOI Bureau of Land Management  

    Action:  Nominations for Site-Specific Advisory Committees; due by Nov. 24, 2023 

    Why it matters: Nominations are open for six advisory committees that provide advice and recommendations to the BLM on the development and implementation of management plans in accordance with the statute under which the sites were established. The six sites are in New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, and Utah.   

    Posted: Week of Oct. 30

    Agency: USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) 

    Action: Agency collection activities for FNS programs; Comments due by December 26, 2023 

    Why it matters: FNS is requesting a generic clearance to conduct quick-turnaround surveys of State, local, and Tribal entities that receive food, funds, and nutrition information through FNS programs, including FDPIR, WIC, and CSFP, which are administered by Indian Tribal Organizations. Previously, FNS conducted one program survey per year at the State and local levels. With these revisions, State, local, and Tribal administrators would receive requests for information with an average of one per, program per year, but no more than three surveys about the same program each year.  

    Posted: Week of Oct. 30 

    Agency: DOI Bureau of Indian Affairs 

    Action: Notice of virtual public meeting on Nov. 6, 2023 

    Why it matters: This will be the ninth public meeting on the Practical Reforms and Other Goals to Reinforce the Effectiveness of Self-Governance and Self-Determination for Indian Tribes Act of 2019 (PROGRESS Act). The PROGRESS Act Negotiated Rulemaking Committee develops proposed regulations for the DOI Secretary’s implementation. The meeting agenda includes topics such as priority setting, drafting subcommittee assignments, and subcommittee reports. The meeting beings at 1 p.m. EST. Beyond this meeting, comments are due by Dec. 7, 2023. 

    Posted: Week of Oct. 23 

    Agency: USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) 

    Action: Notice re Employment and Training Opportunities in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; Comments due by Dec. 19, 2023 

    Why it matters: Approximately 25% of Native American households receive SNAP benefits; this statistic is higher in some rural Tribal communities. This proposed change pertains to a requirement to provide case management services to SNAP and SNAP E&T participants and the merging of some FNA (Food and Nutrition Act of 2008) and SNAP regulations into existing collection activities. These provisions include the notification to inform Able-bodied Adults without Dependents (ABAWD) about work requirements and time limits.  

    Posted: Week of Oct. 23 

    Agency: USDA Rural Development  

    Action: Final rule and response to comments re: Special Authority to Enable Funding of Broadband and Smart Utility Facilities; Effective Oct. 12, 2023 

    Why it matters: In September 2020, a final rule was published regarding the special authorization through Section 6210 of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 to assist rural families and small businesses gain access to broadband services through 10% of the funding received to construct broadband infrastructure. Eight respondents provided feedback about concerns such as delay in loan processing due to the evaluation of the 10% rule. USDA published their responses to the concerns and deemed that the final rule is confirmed without changes.  

    Posted: Week of Oct. 23  

    Tribal Consultation and Listening Sessions:

    Title of Event: Bureau of Indian Affairs, Agricultural Leasing Regulations 

    About: DOI is revising its agricultural leasing regulations found at 25 CFR Part 162 Subpart B, which promote Tribal self-determination through management of Indian agricultural and related renewable resources that match Tribal goals in conservation, multiple use, and sustained yield. These regulations will address leases of agricultural land suited or used to produce crops, livestock, or other agricultural products.

    • Date and Time: Session 1, Nov. 13, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. CST 
    • Location: Osage Casino Hotel, Tulsa, Walnut Room, 951 West 36th St. N., Tulsa, ok 74127 



    • Date and Time: Session 3, Nov. 17 from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. CST 
    • Location: Holiday Inn Bismarck, Missouri Room, 3903 State St, Bismarck, ND 58503  


    IFAI is working on a briefing note and will be facilitating the Tribal Caucus to take place on November 9 at 2 p.m. CST. Updates to be shared on IFAI social media and email lists

    Title of Event: Bureau of Indian Affairs – Contract Support Costs (CSC) for Tribes with Self-Governance Funding Arrangements 

    About: BIA would like to determine how to compensate Self-Governance Tribes for CSC when they are not required to submit budgets. 

    • Date and Time: Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023 @1-4 p.m.  Alaska 
    • Location: BIA Providers Conference Dena’ina Center, 600 W 7th Ave., Anchorage, AK 99501  

    Court Decisions:   

    Littlefield v. U.S. Dep’t of the Interior , No. 23-1197,2023 WL 7146029 (1st Cir. Oct.31, 2023) 

    Several residents of a Massachusetts town challenged the 2015 decision by the Secretary of the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to take two parcels of land into trust for the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribe. The First Circuit Court held that the Secretary correctly determined the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe existed in 1934 for the BIA to take the land into trust for the Tribe’s benefit under the Indian Reorganization Act. The Court found the Secretary rationally examined the historical record and determined that: 1) the federal government had formally acknowledged the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe as a “Tribe,” 2) the Tribe had been identified as an “American Indian entity” on a continuous basis since 1900, 3) a predominant portion of the Tribe comprised a “distinct community” and had existed as “a community from historical times until the present,” and 4) the Tribe had “maintained political influence or authority over its members as an autonomous entity from historical times until the present.”

    Tribal News:

    In Maine, a return of tribal land shows how conservation can work bestThe Washington Post 

    • The Penobscot Nation has a rich history of caring for nature while still using it.  
    • Late last year, the Trust for Public Land bought a parcel of the original Penobscot lands and returned it to the tribe.  
    • The land contains 53 miles of streams in a watershed that is a central highway and source of food and water for the Penobscot. 

    USDA pilot program provides Native-raised bison for local tribal communities Successful Farming 

    • Through the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDIPR), a new US Department of Agriculture (USDA) pilot program seeks to assist in supplying ground bison meat from the area for tribal communities. The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe are the three South Dakota tribal nations taking part in the project.  

    Empowering the Future of Agriculture:Red Lake Nation News 

    • In order to support Native American students pursuing careers in agriculture, the National FFA Organization formed the first-ever partnership with the Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) and the Tribal Agriculture Fellowship (TAF). 
    • “NAAF is observing a significant increase in the enthusiasm of Native youth to further their knowledge and practical experience in agriculture. Regardless of the specific agricultural pursuits that Native students wish to embark upon, our commitment is to furnish them with a comprehensive array of accessible resources, ensuring their path to success. The FFA, renowned for generations as a pinnacle institution that champions education as a cornerstone of agricultural leadership, stands as a valued partner in this endeavor. In collaboration with TAF, an organization singularly devoted to expanding educational opportunities for Native students, our affiliation with the FFA represents a pivotal opportunity. This partnership aims to nurture a cadre of Native agriculture professionals, well-equipped to confront the unique challenges prevalent in Indian Country. This MOU is monumental, as FFA continues to advance diversity and inclusion in their organization, we look forward to working alongside them and TAF to encourage premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agriculture education,” said Toni Stanger-McLaughlin, CEO of NAAF. 

    USDA announces $1.7B investment in climate-smart agriculture, including 2 MI projects Michigan Farm News 

    • The 81 projects and $1.7 billion investment revealed by USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), a voluntary approach to conservation that broadens the scope of conservation efforts and climate-smart agriculture through public-private partnerships, include the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and Newtrient LLC. 
    • For their project, The Tribal Stream and Michigan Fruitbelt Collaborative, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians asked for $20.3 million in order to protect and rebuild the dispersed multi-tribal fisheries and wildlife populations in northwest Lower Michigan. 

    Six Tribal Colleges Awarded Indigenous Foodways GrantsNative News Online 

    • Six tribal colleges and universities are recipients of a new grant program to promote Indigenous Foodways. 
    • Earlier this year, the Sovereign Equity Fund — a nonprofit focused on providing equitable funding access across Indian Country — announced $2.4 million in collaboration with the Mellon Foundation and the Native American Agriculture Fund. 
    • The institutions selected include College of Menominee Nation in Wisconsin, Fort Peck Community College in Montana, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe University in Wisconsin, Red Lake Nation College in Minnesota, Sisseton Wahpeton College in South Dakota, and Sitting Bull College in South Dakota. 

    Native CDFI Awards recognize NACDC for promoting economic justice, sovereignty in Indian CountryCut Bank Pioneer Press 

    • Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) and Oweesta Corporation presented the 2023 Native CDFI Awards to two Native CDFIs, NACDC Financial Services and Hawaiian Lending & Investments (HLI), on October 16. The lenders received recognition for their innovative approaches to advancing financial justice in tribal communities. 
    •  “Native CDFIs have progressed over the last 20-plus years to be the imperative and instrumental vehicles for creating platforms of opportunities, initiating individual and community asset building efforts on a national scale,” said Chrystel Cornelius, president and CEO of Oweesta Corporation, the longest-standing Native CDFI intermediary.   

    Tribes Are Building Food Sovereignty With Help From the Nation’s Largest Hunger-Relief GroupCivil Eats 

    • Together with Feeding America, five tribal nations are enhancing their capacity to increase food production and respond to emergencies. If successful, a more significant change in the way the large organization interacts with Indigenous communities may result from the pilot. 
    • Cheyenne Majenty, an emergency manager and member of the tribal council in 2021, founded Helping Hands for Hualapai as a volunteer initiative to arrange regular food donations. Soon after joining the Hualapai food security committee, the group realized that in order to address this ongoing challenge, they needed to begin producing their own food. 
    • The Tribes are the Hualapai Tribe (AZ), the Onondaga Nation (NY), the United Houma Nation (LA), the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate (SD), and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community (WA). 

    School of law initiative works to build future of Indigenous food sovereigntyThe Arkansas Traveler 

    • The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative has served Indian Country for more than 10 years, helping provide legal and policy expertise. 
    • “As attorneys, (IFAI’s co-founders) Leeds and Hipp realized Indigenous tribal leadership needed information about the complicated legal world of food and agriculture.”