|After months of negotiations, leaders from both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees came to an agreement on renewing the Farm Bill, which expired on September 30, 2018. On Tuesday December 12, the Senate passed the massive $867 billion legislation by a vote of 87-13, with the House set to vote on the bill this week. Tribes and Tribal organizations have long advocated for key provisions in the bill that improve food and nutrition access for American Indians and Alaska Natives. The Conference report on the 2018 Farm Bill was released Monday night and included many key Tribal provisions that support Tribal sovereignty and Tribal Health.
The National Indian Health Board (NIHB) advocates for agriculture policy that addresses the health needs of Indian Country and strengthens Tribal food systems. Included in the Nutrition title of the Farm Bill are significant gains to the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) that will improve the health of Tribal communities. They include:
· A new $5 million demonstration project authorizing Tribes to purchase food for the FDPIR under “638” Tribal self-determination contracts
· Adjustments to the FDPIR matching requirements and funding limitations to reduce administrative burdens on Tribes and help ensure more households can access the program
· Requires the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to cover at least 80% of the administrative costs of the program, but includes an option to cover up to 100% for Tribes claiming economic hardships
· Allows for two-year carryover funding for FDPIR
· Adds “regionally-grown” to the traditional foods provision purchase provision for FDPIR
Other provisions in the final bill that NIHB has advocated for include the establishment of a new Tribal Advisory Committee (TAC) within the Office of Tribal Relations at USDA. Establishment of a TAC at USDA will help ensure that Tribal food and nutrition issues and policy requests are brought to the attention of the Secretary of Agriculture.
The bill also makes Tribes eligible to participate in Local Agriculture Market Program to help Tribes grow, process and market Native foods. Another significant provision regarding Tribal sovereignty is the establishment of 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.
A key controversy during conference negotiations was around the implementation of stricter work requirements for beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The final Farm Bill does not include those work requirements. The bill could be on the President’s desk by Friday, pending final passage in the House. Tribes need to continue having a seat at the table when agriculture policy is being discussed and NIHB will continue to build off of the progress made in this 2018 Farm Bill.
For more information on the Tribal Provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Report, click here.