Policy Brief – September 5, 2023

Home 9 Policy Briefing 9 Policy Brief – September 5, 2023

Policy Brief Summary:

Members of Congress are on their way back to D.C. after the August recess. All eyes are on the end of the month government funding deadline. The Senate is back on September 5, while the House of Representatives begins session the week of September 12. FNS opens a comment period on authorities through October 5 for SNAP and WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs, while Rural Housing Service opens a grant funding window for community facilities through November 29. In Tribal News, IFAI Associate Director Carly Griffith Hotvedt is quoted in the Navajo-Hopi Observer about the past and future of the Farm Bill for Indian Country. Modern Farmer quotes IFAI Youth Summit Alum Nels Christensen about the challenges of being a first-generation farmer in Alaska, while Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska discusses a new food-to-medicine initiative. 

Congressional Hearings   

Looking Back: 

Congress is in August recess. 

Looking Ahead: Relevant hearing this week September 5th to September 8th  

Hearing: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Thursday, Sept. 7th @ 10:00 AM EDT
Topic: Implementing IIJA (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act): Perspectives on The Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, Part II.
Witnesses: Eric Volk, Executive director of the North Dakota Rural Water Systems Association

Executive Branch Orders and Federal Agency Actions: 

A Proclamation on National Wilderness Month 2023– President Joe Biden proclaims September as National Wilderness Month, bringing attention to his administration’s Climate action plans and conservation efforts, and stating that “we are partnering with Tribal Nations, working together as co-stewards of the lands that are most precious to them.” 

Regulatory/Rulemaking Actions:   

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: Through roundtables and various consultations, Tribal leaders have voiced out the need for developing and maintaining housing and community facilities in Tribal communities.  This need is only exacerbated by national disasters. 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, (such as States, counties, cities, townships, and incorporated towns and villages, boroughs, authorities, districts, and 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  

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) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). 
Registration Link 
IFAI will host a Tribal caucus at 3 p.m. CST on September 11 to brief Tribal leaders and staff about implications and issues with these proposed Departmental Regulation updates. Sign up here to take part and receive the IFAI policy paper explaining these proposals. 


Supreme /Lower Court Decisions:   

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

Tribal-Congressional News: 

Kansas tribal leaders eager to broaden access to traditional, technological health careKansas Reflector 

  • Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe member, Richard Adame, encouraged health officials on Monday to work with tribes to communicate specific information on the qualities of natural remedies that was lost to many people due to the rise and dominance of the pharmaceutical sector. 
  • Misty Slater, chief of staff to the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, said, “The food-as-medicine pilot that the Iowa tribe is starting at the clinic … we do also mean things like medicinal teas and herbs. We have specifically created and preserved wild spaces for the foraging. And, for the wild plants, we have created codes to prevent overharvesting. If you get a permit to take these plants, you are going to share with elders who are not able to pick them.” 

In Alaska, Affordable Farms Are Hard To Find Modern Farmer 

  • IFAI Tribal Youth Summit alumni is mentioned in the story; “Nels Christensen plans to farm 40 acres of his family’s allotment land, 145 miles northeast of Fairbanks in the sovereign nation of Gwichyaa Zhee, also called Fort Yukon. Allotments are part of a federal program that requires Native Americans to ask for land back that the U.S. government originally took from them. Christensen dreams of returning to Fort Yukon to farm that land, yet he is hesitant to start in a place far from infrastructure and markets. Although he has gardened since childhood, he started farming one year ago, at age 21. He predicts it will be “difficult to have stability and prosper” in Fort Yukon at this early stage.” 

U of A Receives Tribal New Beginning Grant From USDA to Support Native American StudentsUniversity of Arkansas  

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded the U of A nearly $500,000 to support the Life from the Land Initiative to recruit and retain Native American students at the U of A. 
  • The Life from the Land Initiative will engage leaders from Native American governments, starting with project partners from the Cherokee and Muscogee Nations, to better understand how to serve the needs of Native American students. 

UArizona experts suggest solutions to encourage food, water and economic security in a changing climate – University of Arizona News 

  • Robert C. Robbins, president of the University of Arizona, established a commission to find solutions to the problems Arizona agriculture is facing due to the state’s fast changing climate, and the results are available in a new report. 
  • Among the recommendations is an initiative to expand partnerships with the tribal agriculture community to learn from historical agricultural knowledge and exchange ideas. 

Farm Bill funds rural development and the federal food program Navajo-Hopi Observer  

  • One of the earliest federal funding laws is the Farm Bill. The original version of it was prepared and approved by Congress in 1933, only ten years after Native Americans were granted citizenship on their own territories, which was nearly a century ago. 
  • The 2018 Farm Bill was the first to mention Tribe. “So the biggest one, and one of the easiest ones for Congress to make was just adding, ‘and tribes,’” said Carly Griffith Hotvedt, director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative. “Anytime it said a ‘state may’ or an ‘organization may’ or a ‘business may,’ we want to make sure it said, ‘and tribes.’ Because historically, tribes have not been able to access some programs just because they weren’t delineated or designated as eligible.” 

Farming native fish in the Salish Sea can be done safely, responsibly The Seattle Times 

  • We are at a moment in human history when fact and science must shape our opinions on how we sustain humanity while fighting the climate crisis that threatens our very existence. Science tells us ocean farming of native fish is the most environmentally sustainable solution available to produce food for our world. 
  • The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe prides itself on our achievements protecting and sustaining our environment and salmon habitat, and we firmly believe that native species fish farming is our 21st-century opportunity to continue providing for our community while respecting and protecting our Salish Sea. 

US (CA): CDFA announces $11.67M urban agriculture grant program – Hortidaily 

  • The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Office of Farm to Fork has announced their new $11.67 million Urban Agriculture Grant Program (UAPG), a one-time, competitive grant to fund programs and projects that will enhance the viability of agriculture in urban areas across the State of California. The deadline for applications is October 23, 2023, at 5 p.m. PT. 
  • The UAGP program is designed to support projects that enhance urban agriculture, or the cultivation, processing, and distribution of agricultural products in urban settings, including things like inground small plot cultivation, raised beds, vertical production, warehouse farms, mushroom growing, urban forestry and tree care, community gardens, rooftop farms, hydroponic, aeroponic, and aquaponic facilities, and other innovations. Applicants may apply to one of the two tracks described below. 

Chico State secures large grant to research effects of climate change on agChico Enterprise-Record  

  • Chico State’s Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems — a program based at the University Farm, off Hegan Lane south of Chico — will research the effects of climate change on agriculture, thanks to a $6 million grant, the university announced in a press release Wednesday. 
  • The Modoc Nation partnership will allow the university to promote its climate goals with tribal lands in the state’s northern regions, according to the release. 

Minnesota Tribe Sets Enforceable Rules To Safeguard Wild Rice and Water Supply Great Lakes Now 

  • As enormous grain farms, industrial-sized dairies, and hog facilities start to encircle the White Earth Band’s 829,440-acre reservation close to the North Dakota border, their way of life is being threatened. 
  • All of Minnesota’s farming counties have recorded damaging nutrient pollution caused by agricultural operations, which also result in significant groundwater withdrawals for livestock and irrigation. 
  • In response, the White Earth Nation is putting in place a number of enforced, obligatory pollution control and water conservation measures that go against the conventional wisdom of voluntary practices that the federal government and states have supported for the past 50 years. 

Colorado River Indian Tribes chair speaks at Mesa food and agriculture forum – KJZZ 

  • Amelia Flores, the chairwoman of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, traveled almost 170 miles on Tuesday to the Mesa Convention Center to attend the Arizona Good Food Forum and Expo. 
  • Speaking on behalf of her constituents, Flores expressed that tribal farmers aren’t always respected. “We see them out there working and we wonder why aren’t they in other fields, but that’s their calling, is to be farmers,” she said. 

Northern Cheyenne plant education event aims to grow community connections at Sheridan Food Forest Wyoming Public Media 

  • Northern Cheyenne tribal members Linwood Tall Bull and his son Randall know a thing or two about plants – the father and son duo are ethnobotanists and educators from Chief Dull Knife Community College on the Cheyenne Reservation in Montana. The pair will share stories and traditional uses of Indigenous plants at the Sheridan Food Forest on Thursday, August 31st. 

Klamath Tribes raise concerns for public health near toxic algae bloomKOBI-TV NBC5 / KOTI-TV NBC2 

  • The Oregon Health Authority has issued a recreational use advisory for the lake due to a toxic level of cyanobacteria in the water. 
  • The lake has been a significant point for the tribe for many generations, providing an ecosystem for many culturally significant plants and animals. “We’ve been screaming for a long time that you cannot poison the local environment without also poisoning people,” said Tribal Chairman Clayton Dumont Jr. 

South Dakota Mines Launches New Center for Sustainable SolutionsNewscenter1 

  • A brand-new transdisciplinary Center for Sustainable Solutions has been established by South Dakota Mines. The facility will serve as a focal point for research and development in a variety of areas related to sustainability, such as water quality, emerging pollutants, agriculture, infrastructure, carbon capture, biofuels, bioplastics, environmental stewardship, and others. 
  • The center will help serve the needs of a wide range of partners, from assisting the Department of Defense (DoD) in mitigating emerging contaminants to working closely with Tribal nations to ensure water quality to providing new tools for agricultural producers to increase yield to helping build resilient infrastructure that survives extreme weather to improving the management and capture of carbon emissions for a range of industries. 

Cherokee awaits seat in US House ICT News 

  • It has been a long wait, and everyone is still waiting, but at some point – to fulfill federal treaty obligations – the U.S. House of Representatives will seat Kim Teehee as delegate for the Cherokee Nation. 
  • As a delegate, Teehee will not have the same powers as the elected representatives from the various states. She cannot participate in a floor vote in the chamber, but otherwise may take part in most other House procedures.