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Message from Kelsey Scott, Director of Programs, on White House Roundtable

Pictured: President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Attorney General Merrick Garland, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Corwin Heatwole, CEO, Farmer Focus Scott Blubaugh, President, Oklahoma Farmers Union Kelsey Scott, Director of Programs, Intertribal Agriculture Council Brent Johnson, President, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) Handy Kennedy Jr., Owner, HK Farms

The President of the United States told me there is help coming for America’s Farmers and Ranchers.

The present United States Meat Industry corrupts the efforts of our land stewards.

Our farmers and ranchers are forced to make land management decisions based on how just a few major companies may dictate the market. They must stifle their better judgement, knowing that their land, their livestock and their family deserve a different outcome.

Simultaneously, they are stripped of their unique, compelling, and authentic story as America’s farmers and ranchers; Perpetually placed in a reactionary and stressed state of being. They are then at the whim of private banks that may (or may not) be willing to extend term debt in order to stay afloat in the likely – and often annual – instance that the on-farm income does not exceed the on-farm expenses. What’s a second mortgage on your farm house, right?

The Industry gets to take the credit and the profit for the sleepless nights, never-ending days, blustery cold winters, scorching hot summers, which our ranching and farming families and their livestock endure in an effort to provide a safe and quality meat source for America.

These processing companies place significant strains on our rural communities that are greater than financial. The strain is emotional, physical, mental; it truly disrupts the well-being of the land stewards that prioritize the well-being of others on a daily basis. It’s an informed – and often, optimistic – guess as to what their livestock will bring at the market months from now. Unfortunately, the one constant they can rely on is increased operational costs year-to-year. And, up until recently, very minimal care was expressed towards this sinking ship by our leadership.

And yesterday, I had the sincere privilege of sharing this concern with Mr. President, himself.

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Attorney General Merrick Garland, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack met with stakeholders of America’s farming and ranching industry on the first Monday of 2022, collectively committing to do better on our behalf.

The world is listening, folks.

There is not a quick fix for the extreme crisis that America’s farmers and ranchers are facing. We’re looking at the result of generational abuse, neglect, and harm inflicted upon our rural communities. Their economies have been stripped of wealth. Their optimism has faded with each production year, as operational costs sky-rocket. The idea of their grandchildren one day operating the ranch has become merely a distant dream of the past for too many, as farmers and ranchers parcel off their assets to the private banks, falling victim to a system they were destined to fail.

It is about time the world started listening.

In assuring a fairer, more competitive market, while simultaneously increasing processing options for farmers and ranchers, we’re repairing the first of many broken linkages to an exploitive food system that has been built upon a continent once home to a completely sufficient – and in most cases, regenerative – food system stewarded by our American Indian communities.

My dream for this Action Plan is filled with hope and prosperity for the future of our rural communities. I am a rancher, after all (and we’re trained by the industry to exude optimism and hope).

I see a vibrant reconnection between our producers and our consumers. One that builds community and inspires a tomorrow where our children aren’t suffering from diet-related diseases at the rates of today. I see informed consumer demand shift small scale operations back to the forefront of our food system as they reintroduce healthier, more nutrient dense, and more regeneratively grown foods in our diets.

I plan for baseline economic growth in communities that have historically been void of such activity; with family operations accessing greater financial stability in their venture as they vertically integrate their operations.

I view this effort as the first step of many in re-establishing a higher quality of well-being for our farmers and ranchers, so that we no longer accept an increasing rate of farmer suicide as an allowable projection.

As American Indian farmers and ranchers, we must be prepared to act.

I know we are tired. I know the past seasons have tested our wits. I know we resent the promises that fall short of our expectations; too often turning a blind eye to our leadership’s commitment to our industry. We can not afford to do that any longer.

Be prepared to tell your story. Be ready to answer the hard questions with honesty and vulnerability. Know that the Intertribal Agriculture Council is in your corner, and we are here to help.

The Action Plan for a Fairer, More Competitive, and More Resilient Meat and Poultry Supply Chain puts more power in our hands than we’ve seen before. Now is the time to dig in, and learn how this can be a tool for us to reclaim ownership of our food systems of Indian Country.

Kelsey Scott, Director of Programs

Intertribal Agriculture Council


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