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Where the Wild Rice Grows: USDA Celebrates Indigenous Agriculture, Businesses, and Peoples

Posted by Zane Evans, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service in Trade
Nov 28, 2023
Close up of loose wild rice

Agriculture is a key component of Native peoples’ culture and heritage. Today more and more tribal nations are looking to establish and expand access to global markets. For example, Minnesota’s Red Lake, Inc. – wholly owned by the Red Lake Nation – has begun to join USDA’s agribusiness trade missions (ATM), seeking to establish new partnerships around the world.

Twenty years ago, the Red Lake Nation began exporting their cultivated wild rice and value-added rice products from their tribal members with the Red Lake Nation Foods brand. Their wild rice is cultivated and grown in the tribal land’s paddy fields. In the past three years, it has grown its farms to more than 1,000 acres with plans for annual growth.

Red Lake, Inc. has had great success exporting and growing its markets overseas with the help of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and the programs and services it provides to U.S. exporters, cooperators, and state and regional trade groups. With FAS assistance, each agribusiness trade missions has resulted in sales for Red Nation Inc. “It’s been exciting to work with the Intertribal Agriculture Council (our cooperator) and FAS to do export market exploration,” said Jaycob Robinson, Chief Development Officer of Red Lake, Inc. “It’s given us a lot of big wins!” Since Red Lake, Inc. began ramping up its efforts to increase exports and diversify markets, the benefits have rippled throughout the tribal community by providing more jobs and more business opportunities to the tribal members.

Much of Red Lake, Inc.’s work is made possible because of the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC), which the Red Lake Nation has been a member since the IAC was established in 1987. The IAC promotes the Indian use of Indian resources for the benefit of Indian People. In that spirit, Red Lake, Inc. works with the American Indian Foods Program which uses FAS Market Access Program funds. “This component of the IAC helps with international travel for tribal food producers to develop and grow export markets, as well as attend USDA agribusiness trade missions,” said Robinson. Additionally, the IAC oftentimes participates in USDA-sponsored trade missions and shows to serve as a representative for foods and agricultural products produced and sold by its tribal members.

Over the years, USDA and the IAC have developed a strong partnership while working together to provide many technical assistance services, including land access technical support, agriculture production, agriculture credit, rural development to underserved farmers, and many other efforts.

Category/Topic: Trade