WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2016 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the appointment of six new members and the re-appointment of five members to the Council for Native American Farming and Ranching. As a discretionary advisory committee, the Council provides recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture on changes to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations and other measures that would eliminate barriers to program participation for Native American farmers and ranchers.
"The Council for Native American Farming and Ranching strengthens our partnerships with tribal governments, businesses, farmers, and ranchers," Vilsack said. "Their work encourages participation of new and historically underserved agricultural producers in USDA programs, and reflects a strong intergovernmental relationship built upon shared values and inclusion."
With the addition of a representative from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Council membership is changing to better reflect the diversity of resources provided by the USDA. NRCS provides farmers, ranchers and forest managers with free technical assistance, or advice, for their land.
The Council consists of fifteen members, including four USDA officials and eleven Native American leaders and representatives. Members of the Council are appointed for two-year terms by the Secretary of Agriculture. The appointees may include: Native American (American Indian and Alaska Native) farmers or ranchers; representatives of nonprofit organizations that work with Native farmers and ranchers; civil rights professionals; educators; tribal elected leaders; senior USDA officials; and other persons the Secretary deems appropriate.
The following individuals have been appointed to the Council:
- Angela Peter, Executive Director, Alaska Tribal Conservation Alliance, (Native Village of Tyonek), Tyonek, Alaska*
- Erin Shirl, Assistant Director for the Indigenous Food & Ag Initiative, University of Arkansas School of Law
- Gilbert Louis III, Firefighter and Farmer / Rancher, (Acoma Pueblo), Grants, N.M.
- Jerry McPeak, Farmer / Rancher and Former State Legislator, (Muscogee Creek), Warner, Okla.*
- Mark Wadsworth, Range Conservationist for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe, (Shoshone-Bannock), Fort Hall, Idaho*
- Maggie Goode, Probation Officer and Farmer / Rancher, (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes), Hot Springs, Mont.
- Roselynn Yazzie, Crop Manager, Navajo Agricultural Products Industry, (Navajo Nation), Farmington, N.M.
- Sarah Vogel, Civil Rights Attorney and Former Agricultural Commissioner for North Dakota, Bismarck, N.D.*
- Sherry Crutcher, Rancher and Director of Natural Resources for the Shoshone Paiute Tribe, (Shoshone-Paiute Tribe), Owyhee, Nev.
- Shannon McDaniel, Farmer / Rancher and Executive Director of Agriculture for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma), Durant, Okla.
- Tawney Brunsch, Executive Director of Lakota Funds, (Oglala Sioux), Kyle, S.D.* (*Denotes those re-appointed)
Four USDA officials are also appointed to the Council:
- Jason Weller, Chief, Natural Resources Conservation Service
- Val Dolcini, Administrator, Farm Service Agency
- Dr. Joe Leonard, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
- Leslie Wheelock (Oneida), Director, Office of Tribal Relations
The Council will hold its next meeting on December 8 and 9 at the Flamingo Hotel, El Dorado room, in Las Vegas, Nev. Members of the public are invited to provide comments to the Council from 2-4 p.m. on December 8.
The Council will continue to work closely with the Office of Tribal Relations and other USDA agencies to improve the success of Native farmers and ranchers to access USDA's entire portfolio of programs to build and support their businesses.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.