Policy Brief – September 26, 2023

Home 9 Policy Briefing 9 Policy Brief – September 26, 2023

Policy Brief Summary:

Facing a government shutdown if Congress reaches no agreement by the end of September, the Office of Management and Budget instructed all agencies to update their shutdown contingency plans.

report by Government Executive shows that in the event of a shutdown, approximately 34 percent of the federal workforce will be furloughed, and at USDA that may be 21 percent of the entire workforce. The White House gives its take on a government shutdown’s impact on programs like SNAP and WIC.

Congressional committee work continued last week on Indian Country’s lack of water management programs and funding. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs takes up water access this week in its September 27th hearing.

And today, the Federal Register includes an announcement of credit assistance under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA).

The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative is hosting an online webinar on October 3, 2023, regarding the FNS proposed changes.

In Tribal News, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation and Alaska Natives and Grand Traverse all receive federal funding opportunities from USDA. In Montana, the state names its new Indian Country economic development program manager.

Congressional Updates 

Looking back:


Hearing: House Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday, September 19th

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

Note: No significant Tribal issues discussed during the hearing.

Hearing: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday, September 20th

Topic: Hearings to examine drinking water infrastructure and tribal communities

Witnesses: Brian Bennon, Ken Norton, Jola Wallowingbull

Summary: Indian Country is facing hardships with water management due to lack of or difficult to access programs and funding. The biggest issue lies in operations and maintenance funding, education, and resources.

Link to notes


Hearing: Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee on Wednesday, September 20th

Topic: Hearing to examine drought impacts on drinking water access and water availability.

Witnesses: Johnathan Smith, Tribal Council Chairman for the Confederate Tribes of Warm Springs

Summary: This hearing mainly addressed money allocated to protecting water access and maintenance on these systems.

Link to notes

Looking ahead:

Hearing: Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Wednesday, Sept. 27th at 10:00 am EDT

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 Agriculture undersecretary farm production and conservation

Hearing: Senate Indian Affairs Committee Wednesday, Sept. 27th at 2:30pm EDT

Topic: Native Community Access to Water


  • Kali Watson, Chairman of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, 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 lead of the Universal Access to Clean Water for Tribal Communities Project, San Clemente, Calif. Assistant Interior Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland


Hearing: House Natural Resources Committee Thursday, Sept. 28th at 10:15pm EDT

Topic: Tribal Autonomy/ Energy Development

Witnesses: Not listed

Executive branch orders and federal agency actions:

Regulatory/Rulemaking Actions: 

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 (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.

Sign up here for the IFAI webinar on these proposed changes –(this is meant for only tribal staff and leaders with programs impacted by these proposed changes.)

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: 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: 

The 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:

Umatilla Indian Reservation receives $81k in federal funding for economic developmentNBC Right Now

  • The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation will be receiving $81,060 in federal funding for economic development.
  • The funding is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development and will be used to develop a strategic plan for Tribal agricultural- and food-business growth, food sovereignty, and job creation on the reservation according to a Senate news release.

U.S. Senate panel grapples with how to ensure access to water amid Western droughtOregon Capitol Chronicle

  • According to witnesses testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Water and Power Subcommittee, the demand for water in expanding municipalities is straining agricultural and tribal communities while dwindling supplies are driving up water rates.
  • Tribes have also had trouble accessing federal funds meant to help deal with drought, Chairman Jonathan Smith of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in Oregon confirmed after being asked by Nevada Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto.

Helena-area business newsIndependent Record

  • TJ Altekruse has been named Indian Country economic development program manager for the Montana Department of Commerce. He will spearhead efforts to promote economic development and prosperity within Montana’s Indian Country communities.
  • “Montana is home to diverse and vibrant tribal nations, and I look forward to collaborating with them to create opportunities, strengthen partnerships and uphold the vitality of our people,” Altekruse said.

USDA Invests in Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production Effort in OklahomaMorningAgClips

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing approximately $200,000 in a grant to the Choctaw Nation for its aquaponics implementation program. The project is funded through USDA’s Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (UAIP) grant program, which last month announced $7.4 million in funding nationwide.
  • “This funding will support community efforts to expand access to fresh, healthy food in the Choctaw Nation,” said Jeanne Hamilton, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist in Oklahoma. “The growing popularity of this grant program shows the importance of our broad support for urban agriculture, local and regional food systems and underserved communities here in Oklahoma and nationwide.”

Grand Traverse Band, Alaskan Natives receive USDA grants for maple syrup and food security Tribal Business News 

  • USDA programs support maple production across Indian Country
  • “This project will help both the tribal community and those in the Grand Traverse region to connect with these traditional practices,” the summary reads. “These events, open to the public, will bring in outside vendors to teach people about the modern maple syrup industry in Michigan, and highlight industry leaders in sustainability, cultural engagement, and education.”
  • Roughly $3.6 million went to the Alaska Division of Agriculture under the MGFSP program. Sub-grants through that program, meant to support food security in the region, will be available to tribes or tribal organizations. Individual awards will go toward areas where the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, data indicates highest food insecurity (a program traditionally overutilized by Native communities, proportionally speaking, per a story from Prism Reports.)

Crafting Flavorful Wellness | MORNING LIGHT KOMBUCHA  – TK Business Magazine

  • Morning Light Kombucha is an Indigenous and woman-owned company located in Hoyt, Kansas, owned by Melina Williamson (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation)
  • Williamson sources ingredients from local and regional producers.