Native Farm Bill Coalition

The Native Farm Bill Coalition is a nation-wide initiative to give Native Americans a strong, united voice to advance a common agenda on the federal Farm Bill, which addresses everything from nutrition programs to rural development. It is a joint project of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s Seeds of Native Health campaign; the Intertribal Agriculture Council; the National Congress of American Indians; and the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative.

After successfully helping to shape the 2018 Farm Bill, the Coalition has remained active to continue to advocate on behalf of Indian Country interests. This involves working with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on its implementation of the new tribal authorities and access under the Farm Bill. The Coalition is also continuing to educate policymakers on Native nutritional and agricultural issues, assisting in oversight activities and urging Congress to further expand its recognition of tribal self-determination authority.

COVID-19 crisis response advocacy priorities

When Congress passed the CARES Act in March 2020, it provided essential funding for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). However, in order to ensure that tribal governments, tribal producers and Indian Country nutrition assistance programs are fully supported, Congress must take additional legislative action.

Based on input from across the country, the Intertribal Agriculture Council and Coalition have developed a set of top priorities, policy solutions and infrastructure needs that will help Indian Country food and agriculture through the COVID-19 crisis.

Lower ag loan payments to mitigate the COVID-19 crisis impacts
The Coalition, recognizing assistance provided to agriculture producers across the country in the CARES Act was a strong first step, is urging Congress to provide critical financial relief on behalf of small and family farmers and ranchers in a manner that will benefit both producers, local economies and taxpayers.

We support the passage of legislation that empowers the Secretary of Agriculture to take the following steps:

  • Significantly reduce all Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan payments for the 2020 and 2021 production years, and extend all loans by two years;
  • Appropriate funding and allow the Secretary to offer payments to lenders if they reduce the interest rate of current loans by 2% and offer the same reduced loan payments and extensions to their borrowers; and
  • Authorize the use of FSA Farm Ownership loans to refinance real estate and other debt to aid in recovery from this crisis.

These actions will support producers across the country to not only keep their production going at this critical time but infuse over $1 billion in differed principal payments directly into rural and agriculture economies across the country. With no action, many of these producers will face delinquency and be forced toward bankruptcy. Our actions suggested above will eliminate the need for primary loan servicing and reduce workload.

Ensure food security through nutrition program access
The CARES Act allocated $100 million for FDPIR to support additional food purchases ($50 million) and facility improvements and equipment upgrades ($50 million). To further promote food security in Indian Country, the Coalition is urging Congress to enact additional provisions that provide increased flexibility, access and funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other nutrition assistance programs in upcoming legislation.

We support the passage of legislation to empower the Secretary of Agriculture to take the following steps:

  • Clarify that the CARES Act FDPIR funding covers administrative costs, reimbursement of emergency food purchases, and allows Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs) to procure food locally and regionally;
  • Waive the non-federal cost share requirement and allow for necessary administrative flexibility for verifications, certifications, and service in FDPIR;
  • Temporarily waive prohibition on dual use of SNAP and FDPIR during the same month;
  • Increase SNAP’s maximum benefit available to all households by 15% and the minimum benefit from $16 to $30 and delay implementation of the proposed and final SNAP rules; and
  • Provide parity and eligibility for tribal governments and ITOs in the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

Additional resources
See below for more information on these top priorities and additional legislative tasks for building infrastructure for community and food system development supporting resilient food economies in Indian Country:

The Native Farm Bill Coalition is a groundbreaking umbrella organization, formed to advocate for Native American interests in the 2018 Farm Bill.

The Native Farm Bill Coalition is a groundbreaking umbrella organization, formed to advocate for Native American interests in the 2018 Farm Bill.

Indian Country faces some of the worst health disparities of any population group in the nation, and Native communities have the highest rate of reliance on federal feeding programs. Native producers, who represent the key to tribal food sovereignty and self-reliance, face major regulatory and financial obstacles. It is crucial for all of Indian Country and its allies to be at the table to help shape future legislation – tribes, intertribal groups, Native organizations serving urban and rural populations alike, and others.