The United States Department of Agriculture’s recent announcement regarding the nomination period for the Tribal Advisory Committee (TAC) is a great step to provide greater support and inclusion of Native Americans within USDA programs and policy. The Native Farm Bill Coalition advocated for its authorization in the 2018 Farm Bill, and the Coalition is optimistic that the TAC will include a group of subject matter experts to provide key advice to advance USDA’s work within Indian Country.
While we look forward to the future, it is also important to highlight the important steps that occurred to launch the TAC. If not for the Council for Native American Farming and Ranching (CNAFR), which the Secretary of Agriculture helped establish after the Keepseagle v. Vilsack settlement, the TAC would not exist. CNAFR was pivotal in providing direct counsel to the Secretary, similar to committees that already exist in the Department of Treasury and Bureau of Indian Affairs.
What distinguishes the TAC and CNAFR from the Treasury’s committee is inter-agency collaboration with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The department’s work often overlaps, and the ability for Native Nations and Tribal producers to access some USDA programs requires BIA participation. This collaboration provides an opportunity to remove barriers to accessing programs while also increasing both agencies’ efficiency and overall service.
The NFBC exists to uplift Indian Country’s Farm Bill priorities in a strong, unified voice to improve food access and support Tribal food and agriculture. The Coalition hopes that those experienced and qualified apply, as this advisory committee is another way to help ensure Indian Country’s voice is heard and solutions enacted that positively benefit Tribes, Tribal producers, and Tribal citizens.