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council for native american farming and ranching

Conservation as a Peace Offering to Vietnam War Veteran

Conservation is giving Vietnam War veteran Gilbert Harrison a peace offering of healing, helping to balance the stresses of war. For Harrison, conserving the natural resources on his farm is an important outdoor activity. And who better to care for the land than the veterans who fought to protect it?

Harrison has worked with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) since 2012, when he received funding and technical assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to help him install an improved irrigation system to help develop alfalfa production on his land.

Native American Heritage Month - A Time for USDA to Consult with Tribes and Learn from Them

Late last month it was my privilege to join representatives from multiple USDA agencies at Wisconsin’s Mole Lake Indian Reservation to discuss ways to work together, across agency lines, to provide needed services to Tribes.  Thanks to funding support through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and other USDA programs, the Obama Administration has boosted federal support for Tribes, but now we are working to step up our effort even more, to work as one to support projects and initiatives that the Tribes have told us they support and need.  As we observe  Native American Heritage Month, it is important to note that this effort is consistent with Secretary Vilsack’s “One USDA” policy.  The intention is to have “one USDA speaking with one voice.”

Because we are such a large department, sometimes those seeking services just don’t know where to start.  At USDA we are moving to unify our brand identity and broaden our outreach.  We know that when a member of a Tribe approaches a USDA representative, they don’t want a process.  They want an answer, and we should be giving them answers from all of our agencies. That was the message I shared with my USDA colleagues at Mole Lake.

Secretary's Column: Recognizing Native American Heritage Month

This November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has joined Americans across the country in recognizing Native American Heritage Month. We’ve taken time to honor the contributions of more than 5 million Native Americans across the United States. We’ve also reaffirmed our special relationship with those who live, work and raise their families in rural America.

Rural America provides so much to all of us – abundant food, clean water, beautiful outdoor spaces, renewable energy and more. The positive impact of our rural areas is further strengthened by the diversity, knowledge and tradition of Tribal communities.  

Today, more than 55 million acres across America is Tribal land, much of it in rural areas. Agriculture is a leading employer in Tribal communities. The number of Native American producers is on the rise, up almost 90 percent.

Senior Advisor Announces Water Quality Projects to Improve Public Health on North Dakota and Minnesota Reservations

Last week it was my privilege to attend the annual United Tribes Tribal Leaders Summit and associated conferences in Bismarck, North Dakota. This annual gathering is an opportunity for tribal leaders from around the region to exchange information about current issues in Indian Country.

While there, I discussed the importance of the recently-appointed Council for Native American Farming and Ranching.   The Council was selected by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to suggest changes to USDA regulations and to provide internal guidance or propose measures that would promote the participation of American Indian farmers and ranchers in USDA programs and support government-to-government relations between USDA and tribal governments. The Council is a discretionary advisory committee established in furtherance of Keepseagle v. Vilsack, which was a lawsuit alleging past discrimination by USDA against Native American farmers and ranchers in the way it operated its farm loan program.

I also met with Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Charles Murphy and shared that USDA will fund a water quality project to rehabilitate and expand a failing sewage treatment system serving members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.