With 574+ federally recognized Tribes, all with unique constitutions and governments, addressing food and agriculture concerns in Tribal communities does not work with a one-size-fits-all approach. This is where Tribal self-governance and self-determination, a.k.a “638” is a solution that allows Tribes to determine what is best for their citizens.
While conducting outreach while developing Gaining Ground, the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative heard many Native Farm Bill Coalition members express the need for Tribal choice between regular program administration and “638”.
What is Tribal self-determination and self-governance, and how does it relate to the Farm Bill?
The Public Law 93-638 Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act passed in 1975, which opened the opportunity for Tribes to self-administer their own programs. However, this did not extend to USDA programs until the 2018 Farm Bill. This law was groundbreaking, and many across Indian Country and beyond will commonly refer to Tribal self-governance and self-determination simply as “638”.
The Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservation (FDPIR) pilot program established in the 2018 Farm Bill has allowed Tribes to be able to provide better service and include fresher, locally and Tribally-produced goods in the packages.
The 2018 Farm Bill also included a “638” pilot project within the Forestry Title, providing the chance for greater coordination and management of forested lands in Indian Country.
NFBC priorities for the next Farm Bill include expanding opportunities like the two pilot projects, establishing Office of Self-Governance within USDA, and more. Find the NFBC’s priorities here.
Marker Bills Regarding Tribal Self-Determination and Self-Governance
S. 1780 the Promoting Regulatory Independence, Mastery, and Expansion (PRIME) for Meat Processing Act
Recognizing the shortage of USDA certified food inspectors throughout the country, Congress should expand 638 authority to Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) to allow Tribal governments to inspect beef, bison, chicken, fish, seafood, and other products put into their food programs.
A bill to amend the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act to allow the Secretary of Agriculture to enter into self-determination contracts with Tribal organizations to carry out the food distribution program on Indian reservations, and for other purposes.
A bill to improve access to healthy foods, food processing, housing, forestry, agricultural research, and other agricultural programs, and Tribal self-determination relating to those programs, in the State of Alaska, and for other purposes.
A bill to amend the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act to allow the Secretary of Agriculture to enter into self-determination contracts with Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations to carry out supplemental nutritional assistance programs.
None at this time