Senate consideration of draft Farm Bill offers Indian Country more opportunities to fight its food and nutrition crisis

Roberts-Stabenow bill represents “good start,” but additional Native food sovereignty measures are still sought by Indian Country

The Native Farm Bill Coalition, a collaboration of more than 160 Native American tribes and allied groups, today stated its appreciation for the inclusion of provisions relating to Indian Country in the newly released, bipartisan Senate version of the draft Farm Bill. Coalition members also expressed their continuing resolve to persuade the Senate to add key Indian Country provisions still missing from the draft Farm Bill before it is marked up in the Senate Agriculture Committee on Wednesday, June 13.

“We thank Senators Roberts (R-Kansas) and Stabenow (D-Michigan) for listening to Indian Country’s many advocates,” said Ross Racine, Native Farm Bill Coalition co-chair and executive director of the Intertribal Agriculture Council. “The draft bill marks real progress in considering the many Native American interests in the Farm Bill, and is a good start for further efforts to address the profound problems and needs among our peoples.”

Co-sponsored by Senate Agriculture Chairman Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Ranking Member Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), the draft Senate Farm Bill released on June 8 includes a number of important measures sought by members of the Native Farm Bill Coalition:

  • Key refinancing provisions;
  • Creation of a Tribal Advisory Council to USDA;
  • Reauthorization of support for Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU) and adding two tribal colleges previously excluded;
  • Adjusting the match requirements and funding limitations for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) so that economically disadvantaged tribes may reach more households in need of assistance;
  • Authorizing a new $5 million demonstration project to allow some tribes to purchase some FDPIR food under self-determination (“638”) contracts;
  • Expanding alternative funding arrangements for tribes utilizing key conservation funding programs;
  • Providing TCUs with parity in McIntire-Stennis Act funding eligibility;
  • Authorizing tribes, like other governments, to exercise Good Neighbor Authority in forestry management agreements; and
  • Making tribes eligible for beginning and socially-disadvantaged farmers program funding.

While applauding the support for these measures shown by the leadership of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Native Farm Bill Coalition leaders remain resolute in advocating for key priorities that were left out of the discussion. More work remains to be done to shape the Senate’s draft Farm Bill in ways that will make a greater difference in Indian Country and enhance Native Americans’ own efforts to solve the challenge of food insecurity.

“Far too many corners of Indian Country are in a constant state of food crisis,” said Keith B. Anderson, Native Farm Bill Coalition co-chair and vice-chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. “Native Americans suffer from the worst dietary health disparities among all Americans, and the greatest poverty among America’s poor,” said Anderson. “The draft Senate Farm Bill has great potential, but we need our Senate allies to champion further changes that will enhance our ability to feed ourselves in our own tribal communities in our own ways, and better target USDA support for economic development in the most remote and rural areas of Indian Country,” said Anderson.

In particular, Native Farm Bill Coalition members are working with allies in the Senate to include tribal priorities like:

  • Providing self-determination (“638”) authority authorizing tribes to self-administer all USDA-funded nutrition assistance programs and associated job assistance and training programs;
  • Applying the Substantially Underserved Trust Area (“SUTA”) authority to all programs under the USDA Office of Rural Development;
  • Creating a Tribal Technical Assistance Office within Rural Development; and
  • Establishing a 638 demonstration project authorizing tribes to manage USDA forests that pose a fire or other threat to nearby tribal forest lands.

About the Native Farm Bill Coalition
The Native Farm Bill Coalition provides Native Americans a strong, united voice to advance a common Farm Bill agenda benefiting Indian Country. Indian Country is a leading force in American agriculture. There are more than 80,000 individual Native producers who contribute $3.4 billion to the industry across the Native American land base, totaling some 110 million acres. With more than 160 member tribes and organizations, the Coalition is the first effort ever undertaken to impact the entire Farm Bill in defense of Indian Country. The Native Farm Bill Coalition 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 (research partner). Learn more at