United States: 2018 Farm Bill Is Historic For Indian Country

Last Updated: January 3 2019
Article by Kayla N. Gebeck and Philip Baker-Shenk

Kayla Gebeck is Senior Public Affairs Advisor in Holland & Knight's Washington D.C. office

Philip Baker-Shenk is Partner in Holland & Knight's Washington D.C. office

The 2018 Farm Bill is a huge legislative accomplishment. It earned a super-majority of bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, and it included dozens of provisions sought by Indian Country. The latest in a series of farm bills that are enacted every five years, the 2018 Farm Bill creates new opportunities for Indian Country across a wide array of nutrition programs and assistance for food production, natural resource conservation, forestry, rural infrastructure and economic development efforts.

Native Farm Bill Coalition

For decades, tribes and tribal organizations were mostly brushed aside in previous farm bill discussions. To change this, in 2017 the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community's Seeds of Native Health campaign, in collaboration with the Intertribal Agriculture Council, the National Congress of American Indians, and the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, established the Native Farm Bill Coalition (NFBC) to improve dietary health and food access in Indian Country. More than 170 tribes, tribal organizations, and allies joined the Coalition to give Native Americans a strong, united voice in advancing a common Farm Bill agenda benefiting all of Indian Country. The Coalition's efforts bore a bountiful harvest.

Tribal Provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill 

On Thursday, December 20, President Trump signed into law the 2018 Farm Bill. On December 11, the Senate passed it by a vote of 87-13. The House quickly passed the measure the next day by an overwhelming vote of 369-47. As a result of the Native Farm Bill Coalition, the final package included 60 provisions specifically supporting Native American tribes, farmers, ranchers, and producers. These provisions are outlined below. A side-by-side of provisions impacting tribal governments in the House, Senate, and final versions of the Farm Bill can be found here.  

Conservation: Parity and Support for Tribal Producers

  • Requires the Secretary of Agriculture to enter into alternative funding agreements with tribes and tribal producers in both the EQIP and CSP programs

Nutrition: Supporting Tribal Self-Governance and Management of FDPIR 

  • Includes a new $5 million demonstration project authorizing tribes to purchase food for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations under "638" tribal self-determination contracts
  • Adjusts the FDPIR matching requirements and funding limitations to reduce the burden of administering FDPIR so that economically disadvantaged tribes may reach more households in need of assistance
    • 20 percent tribal match; waiver of match to enable full USDA funding required for tribes with economic hardships; and ability to use other federal funding to reach the match requirement
  • Allows for two-year carryover funding for FDPIR
  • Adds "regionally-grown" to the traditional foods provision purchase provision for FDPIR

Forestry: Self-Governance and Parity for Healthy Forestry Management

  • Establishes a Tribal Self-Governance Demonstration Project for management of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands adjacent to Indian lands under the Tribal Forest Protection Act
  • Makes tribal governments eligible to exercise Good Neighbor Authority for forestry management agreements with states and USDA

Rural Development: Building Infrastructure and Economic Development Opportunities

  • Provides refinancing authority for some Rural Development programs currently within the Substantially Underserved Trust Areas (SUTA) designation
  • Tribal priority, inclusion, and access to broadband programs, including the community connect program, to build infrastructure and economic development opportunities in Indian Country
  • Creates a permanent tribal technical service and assistance office across all USDA Rural Development funding authorities
  • Reauthorizes and expands eligibility of tribal consortia and Alaska Native Villages for a water system infrastructure program
  • Maintains funding for the Tribal College and University Essential Community Facilities program

Research: Inclusion and Parity for Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs)

  • Adds 1994 Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) as eligible for the McIntire-Stennis Forestry program capacity funding
  • Updating the 1994 TCUs list adding a new tribal college, updating the name of another TCU, and creating parity for access to Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR) and the Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP)
  • Creates a Native American student scholarship fund for tribal students who attend land grant universities and colleges

Trade: Increased Opportunities and Access to Overseas Markets

  • Increases opportunities for tribes and tribal producers to participate in international U.S. trade delegations

Horticulture/Specialty Crops: Support for Traditional and Local Foods

  • Makes tribes eligible to participate in Local Agriculture Market Program to help tribes grow, process and market Native foods

Commodity Title: Support for Tribal Producers

  • Adds tribes and tribal organizations as specifically eligible under the livestock disaster programs

Credit: Improving Access to Credit for Tribal Producers

  • Requires a GAO Study on access to credit issues in Indian Country

Miscellaneous Title: Upholding the Trust Responsibility

  • Maintains the Office of Tribal Relations within the Office of the Secretary to report directly to the Secretary of Agriculture
  • Establishes a new Tribal Advisory Committee through the Office of Tribal Relations to provide advice to the Secretary on tribal related issues and policies
  • Legalizes hemp farming and authorizes new state and tribal plans to self-regulate, develop, and expand hemp production; also provides technical assistance to tribes and requires that states permit a tribe to transport across a state hemp that is lawfully produced under this Act
  • Provides additional tribal government and producers eligibility and permanent baseline funding for the combined Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) program for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers
  • Codifies and expands Tribal Promise Zone program authority to bring greater focus to federal investments in tribal communities in ways that stimulate local economic development
  • Makes tribes eligible to participate in new National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program

Additional Tribal-Specific Provisions Supporting Parity and Inclusion for Tribes and Tribal Producers

  • Authorizes micro-loans for local foods in food insecure areas and makes tribes eligible

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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