Billings, Mont. May 3, 2023—The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) as one of 12 finalists for the USDA Regional Food Business Centers (Regional Food Centers). As the only finalist selected for its national reach, IAC will establish the National Intertribal Food Business Center to provide technical assistance and capacity-building opportunities for American Indian/Alaska Native food producers with increased access to USDA resources.
"With over 35 years of experience in food and business development work, IAC is excited about this opportunity to expand access to Native food producers and Tribal food systems that empower self-determination in Indian Country," said Kari Jo Lawrence, Executive Director of the Intertribal Agriculture Council. "Our collaboration with the USDA will heal broken food systems and build sustainable economic growth for our communities."
"USDA looks forward to partnering with the Intertribal Agriculture Council on this innovative and unprecedented initiative," said Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. "By leveraging the expertise soon to be available through these Regional Food Centers, USDA will be able to offer unique support for local food systems development across the country."
IAC will partner with other Native organizations—including Akiptan, the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, and the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative—to develop a coordinated national food system development plan that supports the growth and expansion of American Indian/Alaska Native food businesses. The focus will be on small- and mid-sized food and farm businesses, with more than 65% of the funding allocated for capacity-building awards.
“The National Intertribal Food Business Center is a historic investment in improving Indian Country’s food security and access while also supporting Tribal economic development through food and agriculture,” said Carly Griffith Hotvedt, IFAI Associate Executive Director. “Under the leadership of our Executive Director, Erin Parker, IFAI is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with IAC and other partners through our policy and legal research as well as educational programming and outreach to Indian Country.”
"Akiptan is incredibly excited to partner with IAC on this project,” said Skya Ducheneaux, Akiptan Executive Director. “We're looking forward to further advancing the Native food system and taking steps towards food sovereignty in Indian Country.”
The Intertribal Agriculture Council is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 1987 to pursue and promote the conservation, development, and use of land-based agricultural resources vital to the economic and social well-being of American Indian/Alaska Native peoples. Along with its philanthropic partners, including the Native American Agriculture Fund, IAC is dedicated to establishing a new model of philanthropy that replaces dominant-culture practices and builds healthy, sustainable relationships to uplift Native businesses and organizations.
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“Today’s award announcement is a crucial step towards cultivating resilient foodways, advancing tribal parity, and fostering economic growth in rural areas. This first-of-its-kind regional hub can increase access to resources and capital for Native producers, as well as provide solutions to the barriers that disproportionately impact tribal communities. NAAF’s founding CEO saw a vision for bringing together and centrally locating resources for Native producers through food hubs and sub-hubs in rural regions of the country. This vision was outlined in the report Reimagining Native Food Economies, and this National Intertribal Business Center will bring that vision into reality. NAAF looks forward to continuing to support the Intertribal Agricultural Council and its partners as we collectively work toward a better future for Indian Country agriculture and traditional food systems.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides economic opportunity through innovation to promote agriculture production that better nourishes Americans. Its Regional Food Business Centers provide national capacity building services to help farmers, ranchers, and other food businesses access new markets and navigate federal, state, and local resources, thereby closing the gaps to success. For more information visit the USDA Regional Food Business Centers website.