Policy Brief – September 19, 2023

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IFAI Policy Brief  

September 19, 2023 

Policy Brief Summary:     

Over the weekend, the House GOP dropped a potential continuing resolution to fund the government for another 30 days, while Congressional hearings on other issues continue. Two upcoming hearings (one in each Chamber) will discuss access to federal waters and water infrastructure. The White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) will hold a virtual public meeting on September 26 that will include a discussion on ways to incorporate traditional ecological knowledge in federal decision-making on environmental issues. In Tribal News, IFAI Associate Director Carly Griffith Hotvedt is quoted in Mvskoke Media about bipartisan support for Indian Country issues raised in the Farm Bill reauthorization process 


Congressional Updates   


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


Looking ahead: Relevant hearings this week of September 18th to September 22nd  

Hearing: House Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday, September 19th @ 10:15 a.m. EDT 

Topic: Examining Barriers to Access in Federal Waters: A Closer Look at the Marine Sanctuary and Monument System.  

Witnesses: TBA 


Hearing: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday, September 20th @ 2:30 p.m. EDT 

Topic: Hearings to examine drinking water infrastructure and tribal communities 

Witnesses: TBA 


Executive branch orders and federal agency actions: 

A Proclamation on National Farm Safety and Health Week, 2023 

Regulatory/Rulemaking Actions:   

Agency: Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) 

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 (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 an additional 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 for 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 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. 


Supreme Court Decisions:   

he 9th Circuit decided a case this week addressing fishing rights to certain disputed waters in the Puget Sound. The Court interpreted language outlined in a 1974 Decree, holding that “usual and accustomed” use of waters under the decree requires a Tribe to show evidence that it has fished in that area on more than an “occasional and incidental” basis, and determined that mere travel through a set of waters was not sufficient to establish a tribe’s fishing rights under the decree language.  

Tribal News: 

Farm Bill reauthorized to include tribal input Mvskoke Media 

  • Tribes are pushing for further sovereignty, self-governance, and self-determination with the reauthorization of the Farm Bill 2023. 
  • Brian Schatz presented the criteria tribes have deemed essential additions to the reauthorization during a hearing on Native priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill Reauthorization in late June. 

The Karuk Cook Restoring California’s Native Cuisine, One Acorn at a Time Gastro Obscura 

  • Acorn soup was a staple of Sara Calvosa Olson’s childhood on the Hoopa Valley Reservation in northern California. 
  • After she left for college at 16, Calvosa Olson worked to keep her Karuk heritage at arm’s length for many years. Only much later did she see how lucky she was to know those foods and traditions. “I realized so many of my peers that I went to school with, they didn’t have the same connection, even growing up on the Rez,” she says. “They didn’t know how to filet a salmon.” Many came from families where elders had been sent away to boarding schools, cutting off the pathways through which traditions and recipes normally pass. 

Spring Alaska Schreiner Is Championing Traditional Ecological Knowledge – Civil Eats 

  • Spring Alaska Schreiner (Chugach Alaska Native Corporation / Valdez Native Tribe) grew up practicing her subsistence rights with her family, picking berries, digging clams with her mother, and catching and cleaning fish alongside her uncles, just like many other Alaska Natives. She remembers growing up in Valdez, a seaside city in Prince William Sound, close to the head of a large fjord, where she was surrounded by an inexhaustible supply of natural bounty. Her decades-long work advocating for Indigenous food sovereignty through agriculture, advocacy, and activism has been motivated by her observation of a striking lack of availability to culturally relevant foods when she relocated to Oregon in 2006. This realization has been a driving force behind her work. 
  • At her 6-acre Sakari Farms outside Bend, Oregon, Schreiner employs traditional ecological knowledge to cultivate regional first foods—foods consumed before European colonialization—and passes that expertise down to Native American youth. 

Court says Bureau of Reclamation broke law with Klamath water distribution KOBI TV Channel 5 

  • A recent court ruling in favor of the Klamath Tribes says the Bureau of Reclamation broke the law when it came to giving water to agriculture. 
  • “We are not uncaring,” said tribal Chairman Clayton Dumont Jr.  “We understand that folks need to make a living but we have long since insisted that the only way forward for all of us, for endangered species, for tribal peoples, and for the ag community is to repair the ecosystem so that it’s sustainable.” 

USDA Climate Smart Grant to Benefit NW Wheat Farmers and Increase Cover Crop Seed Production Morning Ag Clips 

  • A 5-year USDA Partnership for Climate Smart Commodities Grant has been awarded to GO Seed for their innovative project, which has the potential to completely alter the way wheat is produced in the future. The goal of this project, which was made possible by a collaboration between GO Seed, the Conferred Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), Northwest Grain Growers (NWGG), and Agoro Carbon, is to greatly increase cover crop seed production and change the way wheat is grown. 
  • The creation of “climate-smart” wheat, the outcome of combining regenerative methods, such as the inclusion of cover crop seed production within the crop cycle, is a crucial component of this attempt. This ground-breaking idea aims to improve soil health, lessen the effects of climate change, and establish sustainable practices. 

Native ‘hempsters’ follow global cooperative example Resilience 

  • It might seem strange to use a worldwide company with Spanish roots as a model for an up-and-coming Tribal venture. However, Winona’s Hemp and Heritage Farm in Anishinaabeg land is sowing the beginning of an intertribal cooperative cooperation inspired by its success. 
  • The Indigenous Hemp and Cannabis Farmers Cooperative, a new initiative, is establishing the framework for the envisioned network. Winona LaDuke, the owner of the farm, and the other founding members want to promote the development of seeds, Indigenous standards, horticulture, value-added processing, appropriate technology, and fair-trade marketplaces.