To the Tribal Membership

From Anita Matt – Dixon District 

Since October 2018, I have been participating in the Farm Bill Coalition behalf of the CS&KT. There are over 135 Tribes and organizations that have been participating in the roll out of the 2018 Farm Bill. Below is a summary of key provisions for Tribes across the Farm Bill. 

Nutrition Title

• Authorizes demonstration projects for tribal organizations to enter into 638 self-determination contracts to procure agricultural commodities for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).

• Requires USDA to pay at least 80 percent of the administrative costs and distribution costs on Indian reservations for the administration of the FDPIR. Under current law the USDA is required to pay only the amounts that “the Secretary finds necessary for effective administration” of the program. The bill would allow the USDA to cover 100 percent of administration and distribution costs if the Secretary determines that the tribe/tribal organization administering the program is financially unable to provide a greater non-Federal share of the costs, or if doing so would be a substantial burden. Tribes can use other federal funding sources to meet matching requirement under FDPIR.

• The bill directs the Secretary to purchase or offer to purchase those traditional foods that may be procured cost-effectively (for example bison, wild rice, salmon, blue corn, and other products) for the FDPIR. 

• Allows tribal agencies to use other federal resources (i.e. Indian Health Service funds) to meet the matching requirement in the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program. 

• The bill does not include new work requirements for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The House passed (Republican) bill had contained such language but when it went to conference with the Senate, Democrats there made it clear that it would not pass the Senate if such provisions were retained so they were dropped.

• Adds “regionally-grown” to the traditional foods provision purchase provision for FDPIR.

Forestry Title

• Permits the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to enter into 638 self-determination demonstration project agreements with Tribes for the management of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands adjacent to Indian lands under the Tribal Forest Protection Act.

• Establishes a competitive grant program to State foresters to carry out hazardous fuel reduction projects across landscapes on Federal and non-Federal land. Requires State foresters to consult with owners of State, county, tribal and private landowners to carryout out cross-boundary hazardous fuels reduction projects. Appropriations are authorized at $20 million annually each year through 2023 for this program. Includes forest land owned by a corporation or a tribe within the definition of “nonindustrial private forest land” as eligible for a grant with a state agency under the program.

• Authorizes $20 million in grants for cross-boundary hazardous fuels reduction projects and includes tribal land within the definition of non-Federal land as eligible for the program.

• The bill would extend “Good Neighbor Authority” to tribes. Currently, Good Neighbor Authority allows the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to enter into cooperative agreements or contracts with States and Puerto Rico to allow the States to perform watershed restoration and forest management services on National Forest System (NFS) lands.

• Allows the use of any combination of a 30-year contract, a 10-year cost-share agreement, or permanent easement to enroll tribal acreage into the Healthy Forests Reserve Program.

• Requires the Secretary to create a Water Source Protection Program to carry our watershed restoration projects on National Forest System land and coordinate/partner with tribes to develop water source management plans.

• Requires the Secretary to create a Watershed Condition Framework for National Forest System land in coordination with tribes and other governments within watershed areas.

• Establishes a new Wood Innovation Grant Program available to tribal, state, and local governments for advancing the innovative use of wood products, with a priority for the use of existing milling capacity.

Disaster Assistance, Credit and Crop Insurance

• The bill makes tribes and tribal organizations eligible producers under Supplemental Agricultural Disaster Assistance Programs and require a reimbursement of 75 percent of the losses for beginning farmers, ranchers, and veterans under the Tree Assistance Program.

• Creates permanent, mandatory baseline funding for outreach, education, and training for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, including tribal farmers and ranchers in the new Farming Opportunities Training Outreach program, and specifies tribal government and tribal producer eligibility for grants under the programs.

• The bill directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the agricultural credit needs of farms, ranches, and related agricultural businesses that are owned or operated by Indian tribes on tribal lands or enrolled members of Indian tribes on Indian allotments. If needs are not being met, the GAO is to include legislative and other recommendations that would result in a system under which the needs are met in an equitable and effective manner.

Conservation Title 

• Allows the Secretary to enter into cost-share agreements with tribes, and other partners, to carry out the conservation reserve enhancement program.

• Allows the Secretary to enter into one or more agreements with tribes to carry out the maintenance required for a conservation easement.

• Requires the Secretary of Agriculture to enter into alternative funding agreements with tribes and tribal producers in both the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) programs.

Trade Title 

• Provides for greater inclusion and participation of Native farmers, ranchers, and producers on

international trade missions.

• Requires a report to Congress within two years regarding the efforts of federal agencies to increase tribal inclusion on international trade missions.

Rural Development Title

• Provides refinancing authority to USDA projects currently eligible for Substantially Underserved Trust Areas (SUTA) to make improvements to electric, broadband, and water infrastructure in underserved tribal communities.

• The bill gives priority to tribes and other underserved communities for broadband grants and loans and codifies the Community Connect Grant Program which helps fund broadband deployment into rural communities where it is not yet economically viable for private sector providers to deliver service; tribes are eligible to receive funding under the Community Connect program.

• Creates a Tribal Technical Assistance Office within Rural Development to help tribal entities better access programs across RD.

• The bill reauthorizes and maintains funding for Rural Development’s Tribal College and University Essential Community Facilities Program through 2023. This program provides funding to TCUs to make capital improvements to their educational facilities and to purchase equipment.

• Creates a Council with representatives from 26 Executive Branch agencies to streamline and leverage federal investments in rural areas, and coordinate with all stakeholders, including tribal governments.

Research Title

• Makes Tribal Colleges and Universities eligible to compete for McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry grants.

• Reauthorizes support for TCUs, and creates parity for TCUs to access the Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR) and the Federally Recognized Tribes Extension (FRTEP) programs.

• Create a new grant program for land-grant colleges and universities to provide support to tribal students through several areas including recruiting; assistance with tuition and fees; experiential learning; student services – including tutoring counseling and academic advising; and other services to increase the retention and graduation rates of tribal students.

Miscellaneous Title/Administrative Provisions

• Maintains the Office of Tribal Relations within the Office of the Secretary to report directly to the Secretary of Agriculture.

• Establishes a new Tribal Advisory Committee through the USDA Office of Tribal Relations to provide advice to the Secretary on tribal related issues and policies.

• Legalizes hemp farming and authorizes new state and tribal plans to self-regulate, develop, and expand hemp production; also provides technical assistance to tribes and requires that states permit a tribe to transport across a state, hemp that is lawfully produced under this Act.

• Codifies and expands Tribal Promise Zone program authority in order to bring greater focus to federal investments in tribal communities in ways that stimulate local economic development.

• Makes tribes eligible to participate in new National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program to address the risk of introduction and spread of animal diseases that have an adverse effect on the livestock and related industries of the U.S.

• The bill would make tribes eligible for funding under the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network. This network provides grants to eligible entities that offer stress assistance programs to individuals engaged in farming, ranching, and other agriculture-related occupations. Programs include farm helplines and websites, community outreach and education, support groups, and home delivery of assistance.

• Makes tribes eligible to participate in the Local Agriculture Market Program to help tribes grow, process and market Native foods. 

A question I have been requested to check into is the “Legalization of Hemp production”. Previously, hemp was included within the statutory definition of “marihuana” and outlawed as a Class 1 substance under the Controlled Substances At of 1970 (CSA) the 2014 Farm Bill partially lifted the CSA ban by authorizing state departments of agriculture and higher educational institutions to grow and cultivate hemp under pilot research programs authorized by state law. Currently, 41 states have enacted legislation authorizing hemp under these research pilot programs. Although this authority expanded growth and research efforts nationwide, there is a lack of Tribal; parity and inclusion in the 2014 Farm Bill provision on hemp. 

The 2018 Farm Bill makes production of industrial hemp legal under federal law so long as it meets the definition of having less than 0.3 percent concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol-9 (THC) on a dry weight basis and produced in accordance with a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved Tribal or State regulatory plan. In order for a Tribal government to assert regulatory authority of industrial hemp production within its jurisdiction, a Tribe must submit a Tribal plan for USDA to approve.

There was a meeting May 1-2, in Washington DC for Tribes to continue communication as this Farm Bill rolls out. I was unable to attend. I will however, assure that further information is shared.

Thank you.

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