Policy Brief – October 3, 2023

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Policy Brief Summary:

A government shutdown was temporarily averted with Congress signing a 45 day continuing resolution.

While there are no meetings related to Tribal food and agriculture scheduled this week, last week, there were hearings on farmland management and water access issues that tied to many Indian Country communities.

There are Federal Register listings for the Emergency Livestock Relief Program for fiscal years 2021 and 2022. Articles in Tribal news range from New Mexico Indigenous communities chile farming operations to reviving sustainable living, and Navajo water rights.  

Congressional Updates 

Looking back:

Hearing: Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Wednesday, Sept. 27th 
Topic: U.S. Agriculture Foreign Ownership

  • Harrison Pittman, Director of the National Agricultural Law Center in the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Fayetteville, Ark.  
  • David L. Ortega, Associate Professor for Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich.  
  • Gloria Montano Greene, Deputy Under Secretary Farm Production and Conservation 

Summary: There is no national system to report farmland ownership to the USDA, including Tribal, municipal and county systems. All reporting is voluntary. The majority of foreign-owned farmland (31%) is Canadian owned, while China owns slightly less than 1% of farmland in the US. 
Link to notes 

Hearing: Senate Indian Affairs Committee Wednesday, Sept. 27th 
Topic: Native Community Access to Water

  • Kali Watson, Chairman of the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, Kapolei, Hawaii 
  • Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson, President & CEO of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Anchorage, Alaska 
  • Crystalyne Curley, Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council, Window Rock, Ariz. 
  • Benjamin Smith, Deputy director of the HHS Indian Health Service 
  • Heather Tanana, Initiative leads of the Universal Access to Clean Water for Tribal Communities Project, San Clemente, Calif. Assistant Interior Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland 

Summary: Congressional Witnesses from various Tribal entities gave their testimonies of the failings/ areas that need improvement in their communities. Senator Lisa Murkowski mentioned that the issue of water access will require cross-departmental support, citing that the Agriculture Committee will be in assistance regarding the upcoming Farm Bill. 
Link to notes 

Hearing: House Natural Resources Committee Thursday, Sept. 28th 
Topic: Tribal Autonomy/ Energy Development

  • Melvin J. Baker- Chairman of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe 
  • Cody Desautel- Executive Director of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation 
  • Bidtah Baker- Chief legal counsel for the Office of the President and Vice President of the Navajo Nation 
  • Nicholas Lovesee- Director of Policy at the Native American Finance Officers Association 

Summary:  Representatives on the committee spoke passionately on tribal autonomy and repeatedly sounded their support for Tribes and their sovereignty in all endeavors. While each testimony was unique to their own Tribe’s experiences, all issues pointed to the same cause- barriers that have arisen from the complicated bureaucracy of approvals and partnerships when it comes to establishing, maintaining, and updating any energy projects.  There was discussion over Tribal Energy Resource Agreements (TERAs) and about issues that arise from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Link to notes 

Looking ahead:

No scheduled Congressional hearings during the week of October 2nd were relevant to Tribal food and agriculture at the time of publication.   

Executive branch orders and federal agency actions:

Regulatory/Rulemaking Actions: 

Agency: USDA Farm Services Agency
Action: Notice of Funds Availability; 2021 Emergency Livestock Relief Program (ELRP) Phase 2; Effective September 27, 2023
Why it matters: For each eligible livestock producer with an approved 2021 LFP application who previously received an ELRP Phase 1 payment, FSA will issue an ELRP Phase 2 payment to assist with losses in the value of winter forage from the deterioration of grazing cover due to a qualifying drought or wildfire during the 2021 normal grazing period, which has been exacerbated by the continued lack of precipitation. The ELRP Phase 2 payment will be equal to 20 percent of the 2021 gross ELRP Phase 1 payment  Eligible livestock producers are not required to submit an application for ELRP Phase 2, however, producers must have all required supplemental forms on file with FSA to be eligible for the payment.  

Posted: Week of October 2nd
Agency: USDA Farm Services Agency
Action: Notice of Funds Availability; Emergency Livestock Relief Program (ELRP) 2022; Effective September 27, 2023
Why it matters: ELRP 2022 will provide payments to producers who faced increased supplemental feed costs because of forage losses due to a qualifying drought or wildfire in calendar year 2022, using data already submitted to FSA through the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP). The ELRP 2022 payment percentage will be 90 percent for historically underserved farmers and ranchers, and 75 percent for all other producers. For a producer to be eligible for a payment based on the higher payment rate for eligible underserved farmers or ranchers, the producer must file Form CCC-860  Socially Disadvantaged, Limited Resource, Beginning and Veteran Farmer or Rancher Certification with FSA.

Posted: Week of October 2nd 
Agency: USDA Food and Nutrition Service 
Action: Final Rule Notice for Child Nutrition Programs: Community Eligibility Provision – Increasing Options for Schools; Effective October 26, 2023
Why it matters: This final rule lowers the Identified Student Percentage (ISP) from 40% to 25%. The ISP is the percentage of enrolled students who are certified for free school meals without submitting a household application, such as those directly certified through specific Federal benefits programs (e.g., the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)). Lowering the minimum ISP will give States and schools greater flexibility to offer meals to all enrolled students at no cost when financially viable.

Posted: Week of October 2nd 
Agency: Environmental Protection Agency 
Action: Notice of Funding Availability for Credit Assistance under WIFIA; Deadline for submissions is October 25, 2023
Why it matters: Tribal governments are among the eligible applicants for this funding opportunity. The WIFIA program’s mission is to accelerate investment in the country’s water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost, supplemental credit assistance under customized terms to creditworthy water infrastructure projects of national and regional significance. Some of the eligible projects include repair, rehabilitation, or replacement of drinking water, wastewater, or stormwater infrastructure; and drought prevention, reduction, or mitigation projects. 

Posted: Week of September 25th 
Agency: Department of Treasury
Action: Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds; notice of interim final rule – comments must be received on or before November 20, 2023.
Why it matters: Treasury seeks comment on sections addressing the new eligible uses, Emergency Relief from Natural Disasters, Surface Transportation projects, and Title I projects. Treasury encourages state, local, and Tribal governments in particular to provide feedback and to engage with Treasury regarding issues that may arise regarding the new eligible uses.

Posted: Week of September 25th 
Agency: USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement 
Action: Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers; Solicitation of Membership Nominations by October 10, 2023
Why it matters: The full Advisory Committee (of at least 14 members, maximum 20) will explore issues, USDA policies and programs, and related matters challenging new farmers and ranchers. This is a great opportunity for Indian Country to continue to voice out and seek solutions for ongoing barriers for beginning Indigenous farmers and ranchers. 

Posted: Week of September 18th 
Agency: USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)
Action: Privacy Act of 1971; Notice of a new system of record; Comments to be submitted by October 18, 2023
Why it matters: It is important for Indian Country to know that FNS is proposing a new system of record management, using a system called Mercury. It will be used by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Child Nutrition Program (CNP), the Supplemental Nutrition and Safety Program (SNAS), and Regional Operations and Compliance (ROC). Mercury does not support any external-facing or publicly accessible website or interface. 

Posted: Week of September 18th 
Agency: Environmental Protection Agency 
Action: White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council; Notification of Virtual Public Meeting on September 26, 2023. Written comments may be submitted by October 10, 2023.
Why it matters: One of the topics being discussed at this meeting includes environmental justice issues affecting Tribal members and nations. Discussion will include ways in which the incorporation of indigenous knowledge to federal decision-making could help address environmental hazards and environmental justice concerns. 

Posted: Week of September 18th 
Agency: USDA Food and Nutrition Service 
Action: Proposed Rule on Food Distribution Programs: Improving Access and Parity; comments are due by October 13, 2023
Why it matters:  For several years, Tribal leaders and Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs) have been advocating for better access to and parity among federal food distribution programs. 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) 


Posted: Week of August 21st 

Please read the IFAI policy analysis, ITO worksheet on proposed changes and the draft comment template for organizations that may be impacted by these changes here


Tribal Consultation/Listening Sessions: 

Inflation Reduction Act Forest Landowner Support Funding Opportunity
USDA Forest Service is holding virtual office hours October 13, 2023 for prospective applicants to ask questions about the Inflation Reduction Act Forest Landowner Support Funding Opportunity. Eligible entities include, but are not limited to, Tribal Governments, Alaska Native Corporations, and other Tribal entities.  The Inflation Reduction Act Forest Landowner Support programming provides financial assistance grants for projects that support underserved and small-acreage forest landowner participation in emerging private markets for climate mitigation and forest resilience. Additional information about the program can be found here.

JOIN OFFICE HOURS:Join Microsoft Teams Meeting
Forest Service staff will be available to answer questions regarding allowable costs, eligibility criteria, and other information from the Notice of Funding Opportunity and Application 

 No RSVP is required for participation.  

Title of Event: FDA Tribal Listening Session on Nutrition Initiatives – Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Date/Time:  Tuesday, October 24, 2023, 4:00-5:00pm ET -Must register via the link here.
About: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA or Agency) Intergovernmental Affairs (IGA) team would like to share the announcement of a Tribal Listening Session on Nutrition Initiatives hosted by the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. All tribes promoting greater access to healthier foods and nutrition are encouraged to join.

Supreme and Circuit Court Decisions: 

(On remand from the Eighth Circuit) Chase v. Andeavor Logistics L.P. No. 1:19-cv-00143 (D.N.D, Aug. 8, 2023) 

A pipeline company planning to operate a pipeline system through tribal and allotted lands secured permission from three tribes to operate its pipeline through tribal trust land but could not reach an agreement with individuals who owned allotted lands held in trust by the United States. The owners of the allotted lands filed trespass and constructive trust claims against the pipeline company. Individual Indians who are equitable owners of allotted lands held in trust by the United States may not assert a federal common law cause for action for trespass. 

Tribal News:

Chile season in New MexicoICT News 

  • Lia Abeita-Sanchez spends countless hours tending to the land on the traditional homelands of the Isleta people in New Mexico. She is a New Mexico certified chile farmer. She will be competing in the 2023 New Mexico Chile Taste Off on Oct. 7. 
  • While her crop is not as bountiful as some previous years, she is nonetheless thankful to be able to share her culture with others. Her chiles are New Mexico certified, meaning that they are grown and harvested in New Mexico, a distinction that is bestowed on those carrying on the cultural heritage of the region.  

 Tübatulabal Tribe acquires 1,240 acres of ancestral land ICT News 

  • Tübatulabal Tribe acquired land in California that will be focused partially on conservation. 

How One of the Smallest Tribal Nations in the U.S. Is Redefining Sustainable Living Vogue 

  • One of the largest concentrations of mid-century modern architecture in the world, rejuvenating hot springs, world-class golf, rich and vibrant arts and music experiences—Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley in California are known for many things, but perhaps what it should be best known for is its deeply ingrained Indigenous culture and history. The Cahuilla people have lived in the area’s mountains and valleys for more than 3,000 years and are considered to be its original inhabitants. 
  • One of the nine Cahuilla Indian nations, the Augustine nation is one of the members of the Desert Cahuilla tribe. Seven adults and 12 children make up the current membership of the Augustine Reservation, which Congress formally established on December 29, 1891. Today, Mary Ann, Roberta’s daughter, and her siblings are represented on the tribe council by five of their direct ancestors. Victoria Martin is the vice chairperson, William Vance is the treasurer, Jeremy Martin is the tribe secretary, and Ronnie Vance is a council member. Amanda Vance is the Tribal chairwoman. Victoria Martin is the vice chairperson. 
  • Together, they oversee all of the tribe’s commercial ventures, including the Augustine Casino, Cahuilla Ranch, and—possibly the most spectacular of them—Temalpakh Farm, a 53-acre organic farm whose goal is to promote sustainable living among Coachella Valley locals. 

 Biden calls for ‘abundant’ salmon populations, directs agencies to honor tribal treaty rights — KNXX 

  • In order to bring back thriving wild salmon populations to the Columbia River Basin, President Biden has instructed government agencies to uphold commitments under tribal treaties and trusts. 
  • Four tribal groups signed treaties with the US government in 1855: the Nez Perce Tribe, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Indian Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. That guaranteed tribe members the right to fish in all customary and established locations. However, 13 populations of salmon and steelhead have either become vulnerable or endangered since dams were erected in the Columbia Basin. 
  • Tribal and conservation groups applauded the move, calling the memorandum “incredibly historic.” “The president is also sending a clear message throughout the entire federal government and all the federal agencies that business as usual is no longer acceptable,” said Aja DeCoteau, the executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. 

 Senators urged to step up after Supreme Court ruling on Navajo water rightsArizona Captial Times 

  • The Navajo Nation Council turns 100 this year, and Crystalyne Curley said before a U.S. Senate committee on Wednesday that the tribe has been fighting for access to water for as least as long. The remarks were delivered by Curley, the Navajo Council’s speaker, at a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on the trust duties of the government to guarantee tribes’ access to water. At the hearing in Washington, D.C., the majority of the senators and witnesses concurred that there is a legal requirement, but Curley said that it goes farther than that. 
  • Curley said a lack of access to water also impedes tribes’ economic development, agriculture, tourism and more. But that, at its heart, it remains a human rights issue. One she said advocates will keep fighting for. “Looking forward, we just have to continue to stay hopeful and just keep trying to work with different parties to get this human right,” Curley said. 

 How Reclaimed Wastewater Is Reviving Tribal LandReasons to be Cheerful 

  • For 150 years, the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) has worked to restore agriculture to its region, along with water, which is essential to the industry. The neighborhood has also discovered an unexpected and crucial weapon in their battle, which has spanned federal courtrooms and irrigation canals: wastewater. 
  • With the help of two of its neighboring communities, GRIC has been a member of an innovative water exchange program since 2004, which enables it to exchange a portion of its legally mandated Colorado River water allotment for a larger amount of triple-treated, agricultural-grade recovered wastewater. The GRIC water exchange is an example of how residential and agricultural demands may be coordinated to generate a stable, sustainable, and hygienic water supply that connects fields to tables—and back again—in the West, which is becoming an increasingly water-scarce region. 

 Massachusetts NRCS Announces Application Dates for Fiscal Year 2024 ProgramsMorning Ag Clips 

  • The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) application deadlines for 2023 and 2024 funding have been set as November 3, 2023 and March 8, respectively, by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 
  • CSP supports farmers in advancing their conservation efforts on their property. It offers a payout to sustain the ongoing conservation work on the property and helps farmers with the expense of putting additional conservation measures in place. Numerous advantages of the program include improved animal habitat, fewer inputs, higher agriculture yields, and enhanced resistance to adverse weather. Working lands include farmland, pastureland, non-industrial private forest land, and agricultural property under the control of a tribe. CSP is for these types of lands.