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Virtual Conference Sneak Peek: Legal and Policy

The exciting content planned for the Legal and Policy Track during the December 7-10 Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) Virtual Conference was the topic during a webinar held this past week featuring Tikaan Galbreath, IAC Technical Assistance Specialist (TA) – Alaska Region; Josiah Griffin, Program and Policy Specialist for the Indigenous Food & Agriculture Initiative; Electa Hare-Redcorn – former IAC TA and now in a new role with the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and Dan Cornelius – IAC TA for the Midwest Great Lakes Region and Desbah Padilla - IAC TA for the Southwest Region.

There are so many topics to cover when it comes to developing and executing policy around farming, agriculture, and Tribal food law.

Topics will include using National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) data to inform strategic ag decisions, Tribal conservation districts and policy advocacy, Tribal government supported initiatives, the Native Farm Bill 2023, Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) agricultural diversification, basic business organization and succession planning.

Padilla said a presenter from the NASS office will be highlighting a view of the 2017 Census of Agriculture. She added they are also asking NASS to present a breakdown of IAC’s Tribal survey data.

“There will also be insight into how to access the NASS database as well as navigating through the new information and special tabulations on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website,” she noted. “And, we will be talking about some of the historic policy work and historic data from 1975 forward.”

Galbreath shared some of the topic areas that will be covered under the Tribal Conservation Districts and policy advocacy sections of the breakout sessions. “In Alaska, things are a little bit different,” he explained. “Rather than reservations we had the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act which created regional corporations and Tribal corporations. With that, came the allocations of lands rather than reservations.”

“That has resulted in an effective approach to partnering with USDA which is the development of Tribal conservation districts,” he added. “As the largest private landholders in Alaska, the Tribes have played a central role in helping NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) and other USDA agencies in accomplishing their goals.”

“Partnerships with NRCS support the conservation approaches,” Galbreath pointed out. “We have been stewards of our land since time and memorial so it’s a natural extension of the work and the perspective that we have applied to the land over the years.”

“We will really explore that in the breakout sessions during conference. Any tribe could potentially develop or create a Tribal conservation district. It takes a resolution of the board to enact,” he said, noting once that has been done you can start the conservation planning process with NRCS that opens up a host of resources.

You won’t want to miss learning how 18 Tribal conservation districts are finding success in the Alaska region. “Really understanding what’s right for your land comes from our Indigenous knowledge and through forming a Tribal conservation district you are able to access the resources and different financial funding opportunities,” Galbreath said in conclusion.

Josiah Griffin spoke about Tribal government supported initiatives along with implementation and considerations around food safety modernization and how a host of factors come together in planning efforts around these issues.

“Working at the Food and Agriculture Initiative, one of the characteristics we continue to see is that the COVID-19 crisis has not instigated new supply chain challenges but really bubbled up existing challenges to the food supply chains that Tribal and Native communities see across the country.”

Griffin said the Tribes are using the COVID-19 opportunity to re-envision and improve the designing, implementing and scaling of both their growing agricultural operations as well as new food processing operations, “How we talk about food safety has changed over the past few years. In 2011, Congress implemented or enacted the Food Safety Modernization Act with the authorization authority designated to the Food and Drug Administration under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.”

IAC members are encouraged to learn more in December about how the Food Safety Modernization Act functions as the first Law of General Applicability, meaning it applies universally across the country.

Electa Hare-Redcorn, a former IAC employee who went to work for the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma also chimed into the discussion with Griffin, “It’s a very important time to look to those policy, code and resources that are already built out and then introduce them to your traditional Tribal councils and to your traditional leaders and to the youth in your community so they understand that Tribes can have a role in oversight and regulatory authority.”

Next on the docket was the 2018 Farm Bill discussion with Dan Cornelius, “The Native Farm Bill coalition had brought Tribes together.” He stressed the breakout sessions in December on the Native Farm bill will continue to highlight these efforts that are so important to the future of Indian agriculture.

Streamlining economic resources to help Tribal people in their ag businesses is an important role played by CDFIs. Cornelius described these as a community-oriented bank. Akiptan is a CDFI that IAC helped fund that is focused on food and agriculture issues he pointed out, “The great thing with CDFIs is that they fill gaps and voids where it may be difficult to access credit from a standard commercial bank or they may be issues with accessing funding through USDA.”

We don’t want to give it all away yet, but we do want to help IAC members become more excited about our IAC Virtual Conference. Our goal is to work tirelessly to better inform Tribal agriculturists so they can continue to do the amazing work of raising healthy, nutritious food and maximizing their resources for the people in their Tribes and beyond.

We so look forward to seeing you there!

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