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NFBC Coalition Member Oneida Nation Spotlighted for Success in Self-Determination Pilot Program


February 21, 2024 - Mother Jones


Mother Jones highlighted Native Farm Bill Coalition (NFBC) Member Oneida Nation in an article titled “Tribal Nations Are Taking Back Their Food Systems” for their success in implementing a self-determination pilot program included in the 2018 Farm Bill. As part of the program, the Oneida Nation uses federal dollars to purchase and distribute Native-grown foods, providing healthy food options for low-income Tribal members and bolstering markets for local producers. The article features NFBC for their continuous work on Farm Bill legislation and for its commitment to advancing Tribal sovereignty across Indian Country. Food and Agriculture Area Manager Vanessa Miller weighs in on what this success means to her Tribe and what it could do for Tribes in the future. Read an excerpt of the article:


The self-determination pilot, while small, has been a success, Miller says. People appreciate the higher quality of the food and the fact that it comes from local, Indigenous producers. It has also created a stable new market for farmers and ranchers. Already the Oneida farm is making plans to expand its herds. And the pilot has had broader ripple effects. Tribes have been pushing for much wider latitude over USDA programs, and the success of the pilot bolsters their case. Groups such as the Native Farm Bill Coalition want the next farm bill to authorize tribal governments to administer SNAP and other nutrition assistance programs, meat inspections, and conservation programs on their own lands. Granting that authority would go a long way toward advancing tribal sovereignty, Miller argues.


The program has given the tribe more say over the meals the federal government provides to low-income people on its reservation. And it has bolstered markets for local producers, says Vanessa Miller, the food and agriculture area manager for the tribe. Food sovereignty, which includes people’s right to healthy and culturally appropriate food and the right to define their own food and agriculture systems, is inherent to tribes, Miller says: “This is all rooted in our identity as Oneida people. We’re empowering our communities and ourselves by taking our health into our own hands.” 


Tribal nations have for decades worked to reassert authority over their food systems. But those efforts got little support from the farm bill. That changed in the lead-up to 2018, when tribal governments, Native American farmers and ranchers, and advocates pushed for a farm bill that would, for the first time, reflect their priorities and respect tribes’ inherent sovereignty. The coalition made important inroads: 63 provisions in the 2018 legislation directly address tribal nations. One of the most important was the pilot program the Oneida Nation is taking part in. That pilot, called—rather paternalistically—the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) Self-Determination Demonstration Project, is up for renewal during this farm bill cycle.


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