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Agriculture Continues to Grow In Tribal Nations

Photo: Witold Skrypczak/Getty Images

March 20, 2024

Successful Farming recently published an article discussing the findings from the 2022 Census of Agriculture data across Indian Country. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack noted that the amount of acres farmed by Native Americans grew by around 3.2 million acres between 2017 and 2022 -- While at the same time, the number of Native farmers and ranchers fell by about 2,000. Learn more about new Indian ag data and check out an excerpt of the article:

Agriculture in Indian Country was a nearly $6.5 billion industry in 2022, according to the most recent Census of Agriculture, up from $3.5 billion just five years earlier. Cattle ranching was the most common form of agriculture production, occurring on 39% of farms operated by Native Americans, said Erin Parker, executive director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas School of Law, speaking during the second-annual State of Native Agriculture address. Poultry production and fruit and nut farming also continued to grow in popularity among Indigenous producers, she said.

But in Tribal nations, as across the rest of the country, farms are getting bigger while the number of farmers declines, noted Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, speaking at the event. “There are limits to how long this approach can last,” he said. 

He also underlined the administration’s close collaboration and consultation with Tribes, saying it was committed to furthering self-determination policies that give Tribes more say over how federal programs operate in their communities and respecting the unique nation-to-nation relationship between Tribal nations, which are sovereign entities, and the federal government.

Toni Stanger-McLaughlin, CEO of the Native American Agriculture Foundation, which organized the event, underscored the need to nurture a new generation of Native farmers, expand access to capital for Indigenous farmers, and ensure they have a seat at the table when decisions affecting their foodways and food systems are made. 

“We are in a significant moment for Native agriculture,” she said. 


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