WASHINGTON, August 14, 2012- The Council for Native American Farming and Ranching, appointed by Secretary Tom Vilsack to advise him on ways to eliminate barriers to participation in USDA programs for Native American farmers and ranchers, will hold a two day public meeting beginning today at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. Council Members will hear from White House, USDA and Department of the Interior officials.
The Council will provide guidance to the Secretary to further strengthen USDA programs that serve Native American communities. It will enable USDA to enhance business opportunities for Native American farmers and ranchers, tribal governments and the tribal communities they serve, and those interested in improving tribal economies through food and agriculture production.
Those appointed to the Council include:
Gilbert Harrison, Rancher, Navajo Nation, Shiprock, New Mexico
Henry Porter Holder, Farmer/Rancher, Choctaw Nation, Soper, Oklahoma
Michael Jandreau, Tribal Chairman, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Lower Brule, South Dakota
Gerald Lunak, Natural Resources Director, Blackfeet Nation, Cut Bank, Montana
Jerry McPeak, Farmer//Rancher and State Legislator, Muscogee Nation, Warner, Oklahoma
Lance Morgan, CEO of Ho-Chunk, Inc., Winnebago Tribe, Winnebago, Nebraska
Angela Sandstol, Natural Resources and Conservation official, Native Village of Tyonek, Tyonek, Alaska
Edward Soza, Farmer/Rancher, Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians, Banning, California
Mary Thompson, Farmer/Rancher, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee, North Carolina
Sarah Vogel, Civil Rights Attorney and former Agricultural Commissioner for North Dakota, Bismarck, North Dakota
Mark Wadsworth, Natural Resources/Range Management, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, Blackfoot, Idaho
Four USDA officials are also appointed to the Council:
Dr. Joe Leonard, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights.
Janie Simms Hipp, Chickasaw Nation, Senior Advisor to the Secretary, Tribal Relations.
Juan Garcia, Administrator, Farm Service Agency.
Chris Beyerhelm, Director, Farm Loan Programs, Farm Service Agency.
Appointed by the Secretary as part of the Keepseagle settlement, the Council will suggest changes to USDA regulations and also provide internal guidance or propose measures that would promote the participation of American Indian farmers and ranchers in all other USDA programs and support government-to-government relations between USDA and tribal governments. The Council is a discretionary advisory committee established in furtherance of the settlement agreement. Keepseagle v. Vilsack was a lawsuit alleging past discrimination by USDA against Native American farmers and ranchers in the way it operated its farm loan program.
The council will conduct two days of business meetings, on August 14th and 15th, which are open to the public. The meetings will occur in the Patron Lounge of the National Museum of the American Indian (4th floor), located at Fourth Street and Independence Ave., SW, in Washington, D.C. The business meetings run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Public comment will be accepted on Wednesday, August 15th from 10 a.m. until Noon.
Additional information is available on the USDA Office of Tribal Relations website:
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).