Policy Brief – September 12, 2023

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IFAI Policy Brief  

September 12, 2023 

Policy Brief Summary:     

House committees begin their meetings this week post August recess; Senate committees were back the week of September 5th. While Congress has resumed activities, there are no scheduled hearings this week that are particularly relevant to Tribal food and agriculture. Last week, the Senate Environment and Public Works held a hearing on improving drinking water and wastewater systems and prioritizing disadvantaged communities. On Wednesday of this week at 2 pm ET, there is a Tribal Consultation with USDA regarding a USDA departmental rule to create FSA, NRCS, and RD suboffices on reservations (see summary and registration link below). IFAI also releases its policy analysis and draft comment template for ITOs and other organizations who may be impacted by FNS new proposed parity rules in food and nutrition programs, with comments due on October 13. Tribal News section this week focuses on conservation and restoration initiatives in Indian Country.  


Congressional Updates   


Looking back: Notes from relevant hearing(s) during the week of September 5th  


Hearing: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Thursday, Sept. 7th  

Topic: Implementing IIJA (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act): Perspectives on The Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, Part II. 

Highlights: Discussion surrounding the $55 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for improved drinking water and wastewater systems and communities across the nation. Sen. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma spoke on the fact that “one size does not fit all” and that any solutions must be tailor-fit to unique areas. Sen. Dan Sullivan spoke on the inequities he sees in his state of Alaska and the Indigenous communities there, asking the witnesses their opinions on prioritizing disadvantaged communities, specifically Native American/ Native Alaskan.  


Looking ahead: No scheduled Congressional hearings during the week of September 11th were relevant to Tribal food and agriculture were scheduled at the time of publication.   



Executive branch orders and federal agency actions: 


Statement from President Joe Biden on Protecting Arctic Lands and Wildlife in Alaska  

Regulatory/Rulemaking Actions:   

Agency: USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) 

Action: Assessing Equity in Work Requirements and SNAP Employment & Training; Comments requested by November 6, 2023 

Why it matters: Equity and Parity in the administration of Federal food programs have been issues raised by Tribal leaders and organizations for some time. In addition to the proposed rule on increasing equity and parity in food distribution programs, this notice for information collection activities is further opportunity to address ongoing issues of equity and parity. The study will gather data through a web-based survey and document review of all 53 SNAP State agencies and key informant interviews in six States. 


Posted: Week of September 11th  


Agency: USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) 

Action: Submission for OMB Review; Comment requested by October 5, 2023  

Why it matters: This information collection request pertains to activities associated with the waiver process for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs. FNS will offer three types of waivers to State agencies under the American Rescue Plan Act’s authority: (1) waivers requiring additional information; (2) accelerated waivers; and (3) ad hoc waivers.  


Posted: Week of September 4th 


Agency: USDA Rural Housing Service  

Action: Notice of Funding Availability with submissions due by November 29, 2023 

Why it matters: The purpose of the CF TAT Disaster Repair Grant Program is to provide technical assistance and training with respect to essential community facilities programs. USDA will make grants to public bodies and private nonprofit corporations, (specifically Indian tribes on Federal and State reservations) to provide assistance and/or training with respect to repairing essential community facilities. 


Posted: Week of September 4th  


Agency: USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service  

Action: National List of Reportable Animal Diseases (NLRAD): Revising Proposed Rule and Reopening of Comment Period. Comments are due by September 27, 2023 

Why it matters: The previous proposed rule published in April 2020 about NLRAD elicited concerns regarding the confidentiality of information (regarding suspected or diagnosed incidences of animal diseases or disease agents) reported to States. Further concern was that APHIS was unable to provide Federal assurances of such confidentiality for information reported to the States. This revision no longer requires reporting to State officials.  


Posted: Week of August 28th  


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:   

Title of Event: Tribal Land Acquisition funded through the Land and Water Consultation Fund (LWCF) 

Date/Time: Session 1 September 26, 2023- 1:00pm EST  

       Session 2 September 27, 2023- 1:00pm EST 

       Session 3 September 28, 2023- 4:00pm EST 

About: The BIA has requested $12 million for the LWCF Tribal Land acquisition program and will increase the amount of land for stewardship and other uses deemed beneficial by Tribes and Alaska Natives. The BIA is seeking input as they develop a BIA- specific process and criteria which meet statutory LWCF requirements while facilitating Tribal land acquisition efforts to the greatest extent practicable. 


Title of Event:   Consultation Departmental Regulation (DR) 1340-002: Consolidating USDA Agencies’ Services on Indian Reservations 

Date/Time: September 13, 2023 – 2:00pm ET – 3:30pm ET 

About: This is an opportunity for Tribal leaders and representatives to consult with USDA on its proposed revisions to Departmental Regulation (DR) 1340-002, which will expand USDA’s policy to provide tribes the opportunity to request USDA suboffices on their reservations to provide technical assistance from several agencies, including The Farm Service Agency (FSA), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Rural Development.  

Registration Link  

IFAI and the Intertribal Agriculture Council drafted a policy paper including implications and issues with these proposed Departmental Regulation updates. Click here to view the IFAI policy paper explaining these proposals. 

Supreme Court Decisions:   

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

Tribal News: 

USDA Invests $65 Million for Conservation and Climate Action on Private LandsMorning AgClips 

  • The Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the availability of $65 million through two funding opportunities for new tools, ideas, practices, and technology to advance natural resource conservation on private properties. 
  • For NRCS conservation programs, the Inflation Reduction Act added $19.5 billion, including $25 million for the CIG On-Farm Trials this year. To establish resilient agricultural operations, combat climate change, ensure equity, and foster voluntary conservation on working lands, NRCS is dedicated to assisting farmers, ranchers, private landowners, and Tribal Nations. 


Forest Service partners with tribes, towns to reduce wildfire risk – AZ Central 

  • In three national forests and the tribal lands that they border, the San Carlos Apache Tribe and the U.S. Forest Service will work together on landscape restoration initiatives. 
  • The San Carlos Apache Tribal Forest Protection Act initiative, approved by Congress in 2004, enables the tribe’s 15,000 members to form restoration alliances with the Forest Service to safeguard regions on tribal territory as well as those that border the Apache-Sitgreaves, Tonto, and Coronado national forests. 

DEQ Announces Approximately $1 Million in Available Grants for Water Quality Projects  State of Montana 

  • Applications recently opened for funds totaling $1 million under the federal Clean Water Act for nonpoint source pollution reduction projects in Montana, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Nonpoint source pollution, which often originates from diffuse sources not subject to discharge permit regulation, is the main factor affecting the water quality of Montana’s lakes and streams. 
  • Both locally created watershed restoration plans and Tribal nonpoint source plans that have received EPA approval can be implemented with the help of this money. Through local involvement, the plans direct restoration and protection initiatives. 


Michigan Grants Available for Invasive Species Projects Morning AgClips 

  • Michigan’s Invasive Species Grant Program is now accepting proposals for the 2023 funding cycle, with an anticipated $3.6 million available to applicants. 
  • Local, state, federal and tribal units of government, nonprofit organizations and universities may apply for funding to support invasive species projects in Michigan. Full project proposals are due Nov.1. Award announcement is anticipated in March 2024. 


Addressing the Farming Crisis: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack Emphasizes Local and Regional Involvement to Revitalize Farming Industry The Cornell Daily Sun  

  • USDA Secretary Vilsack discussed the current state of farming in the nation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s initiatives to support small farmers, the significance of agriculture colleges like the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences working regionally to revive agriculture, and other topics in a seminar talk on Wednesday, Sept. 6 at Cornell. 
  • Following the presentation, there was a question-and-answer session where CALS Dean Benjamin Houlton asked Vilsack about a range of topics, including Native farming and the background of Native American eviction by land grant universities. Local Indigenous farming groups have recently been impacted by the agricultural sector’s challenges, suffering from low profits that jeopardize farming’s viability. 


National Agricultural Hall of Fame to induct Flinchbaugh, Groves, Cabeza de Baca Farm Progress 

  • Three people responsible for making major contributions to the past, present, and future of American agriculture — Barry Flinchbaugh, Junius Groves and Fabiola Cabeza de Baca — will be inducted into the National Agricultural Hall of Fame on Oct. 5 at the National Agricultural Center in Bonner Springs, Kan. 
  • Fabiola Cabeza de Baca spent decades of her life teaching in the classroom or traveling miles across rural communities in New Mexico to share home economics knowledge as the first Spanish-speaking Agricultural Extension service agent.  Notably, de Baca was the first agent to serve pueblo communities, having learned Native American languages to better communicate with people from several pueblos. De Baca emphasized the nutritional value of native foods and developed new recipes for using them, introducing techniques of food canning — a process easier than drying, which also preserved more nutrients. 


With new home build, Winona LaDuke showcases Native housing solution, tribal economic opportunityTribal Business News 

  • Winona LaDuke is helping support hemp production in Indian Country through a partnership with citizens of the White Earth Nation. LaDuke is the director of Anishinaabe Agriculture Institute.  
  • The project focuses on producing hempcrete, which is a building material.  


Feds visit to Montana reservations offers insight about challenges, innovations in developing tribal economies  – Tribal Business News  

  • Federal Reserve senior officials recently toured reservation in Montana to learn about economic growth and prosperity, including strides in food and agriculture.