URGENT: Contact your senators today!

At 5:30 p.m. (EDT) today, the U.S. Senate will the voting process (which is expected to take at least two days) on S. 3042 , the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (to be renumbered as the Senate’s version of H.R. 2). This “2018 Senate Farm Bill” recently cleared the Senate Agriculture Committee by a vote of 20-1, with a number of provisions that would positively impact Indian Country, including language:

  • Establishing a permanent Rural Development Tribal Technical assistance office;
  • Providing express authorization for tribal Promise Zones;
  • Authorizing state and tribal industrial hemp regulation;
  • Increasing support for greater inclusion of tribal agricultural and food products in federal trade-related activities;
  • Enhancing alternative payment arrangements for tribal producers; and
  • Extending the Smith-Lever community extension agent program. 

While S. 3042 is a good start, some very important matters are not (yet) in the Senate bill. So the Native Farm Bill Coalition is encouraging you to focus your immediate advocacy efforts on persuading the Senate to add key Indian Country provisions to S. 3042 when the Senate substitutes it for H.R. 2 on the floor. 
The Native Farm Bill Coalition hopes that TODAY you will urge your senators and all members of the Senate Agriculture Committee and Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to support floor amendments that would add three critical provisions to S. 3042/H.R. 2:

  1. Providing self-determination (“638”) authority authorizing tribes to self-administer all USDA-funded nutrition assistance programs, including nutrition-related employment and training funding (Smith Amendment; S. 3046);
  2. Broadening the application of Substantially Underserved Trust Area (“SUTA”) authority to all programs under the USDA Office of Rural Development (Tester Amendment; S. 3104); and
  3. Providing "638" authority to tribes to manage adjacent federal forests that pose threats to tribal forest lands (H.R. 2, Section 8402).

More information on these provisions can be found below.
S. 3046 , the Tribal Food Sovereignty Act, as introduced by Senators Smith (D-MN), Udall (D-NM), Heitkamp (D-ND), Warren (D-MA), Baldwin (D-WI), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Feinstein (D-CA), and Harris (D-CA), would provide tribal Pub.L. 93-638 authority over the operation of all federally funded supplemental nutrition assistance programs. Tribal “638” administration will help restore tribal food sovereignty, and provide better food assistance to more Indian households in need. Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and tribal allies have always said tribal control over tribal food programs results in the maximum benefit. Tribal self-determination has proven to always be the most cost-effective approach. Since tribes are so experienced at administering very complex federal programs and services under Pub.L. 93-638 authority, S. 3046 would allow tribal governments the opportunity to provide nutritious, traditionally grown and harvested food resources and training indigenous to their citizens in ways that advance healthy lifestyles, tribal cultures and customs, and tribal economies.

Additionally, S. 3046 would apply “638” authority to all food assistance-related USDA employment and training or workforce development funds. Most of Indian Country is located in rural, remote areas with limited economic development and employment opportunity. While the current national unemployment rate hovers around 4.1 percent, Indian Country’s unemployment rate is roughly 10 percent. Some tribes possess much higher rates of unemployment (e.g., 80 percent). The lack of access to employment and training funding leaves tribal governments at a significant disadvantage. Applying tribal “638” authority to workforce development programs authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill would ensure tribes are able to best meet the unique needs of their tribal members.

Both the House-passed Farm Bill, H.R. 2 , and the Cultivating Resources, Opportunity, Prosperity, and Sustainability (“CROPS”) for Indian Country Act, S. 2804 , as introduced by Chairman John Hoeven (R-ND) and Ranking Member Tom Udall (D-NM), include language that would extend “638” authority to tribal governments to protect tribal forests from threats of wildfire, disease and infestation from adjacent U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands. The Senate Farm Bill, however, as reported by the Senate Agriculture Committee, does not include this provision. To date, more than 300 tribes have forests within the 57 million acres that comprise Indian Country. These tribal forest lands provide more than $40 million in annual tribal governmental revenue and 19,000 jobs in and around tribal communities. Additionally, many tribes maintain deep cultural, spiritual, and traditional ties to adjacent federal forests and possess treaty rights to access these forests, maintaining forest health of these forests for the next generation is a shared value of tribes and the federal government. However, because fires, disease, and other threats facing tribal forests do not recognize forest boundaries, 638 tribal management of neighboring forests will allow for cohesive management practices that promote healthy forests, ecosystems, and local forest economies. Tribal forestry management practices have been proven to support the health of trees and wildlife, lessen the impact of devastating wild fires, limit the infestation of invasive plants and insects, and promote forest recovery. Without the enactment of this language, tribal governments will continue to be limited in its efforts to protect culturally and economically valuable resources.

S. 3104 , introduced by Senators Tester (D-MT) and Heitkamp (D-ND), will extend existing Substantially Underserved Trust Areas ("SUTA") authority to all programs and services administered by the USDA’s Office of Rural Development. First established in the 2008 Farm Bill, SUTA is only available for a handful of electricity, telecommunications, water and sewer infrastructure programs within the Rural Utility Service. If a rural area meets the definition of “underserved,” as does most of Indian Country, its SUTA designation means it is eligible for lower interest rates, waivers of matching and credit support requirements, extended repayment plans, and grant funding priority. By expanding SUTA authority to all USDA Rural Development programs, tribal governments located in rural America will gain improved access to critical grants, loans, and loan guarantees that support the creation of rural jobs, small business development, community facility construction, development of rural essential services, equipment for health care and first responders, housing assistance, and community empowerment. 
These provisions have been among the top priorities of the Native Farm Bill Coalition members. There is substantial support for each of them from our Indian Country champions, but these provisions will not get into the Senate bill without your additional help today.  Today, please contact your Senators and all members of the Senate Agriculture Committee and Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, asking them to support these three provisions.

Coalition advocacy templates and resources:
U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee
Pat Roberts (R-KS)

Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

John Boozman (R-AK)

John Hoeven (R-ND)
LD: Dan Auger

Joni Ernst (R-IA)

Charles Grassley (R-IA)

John Thune (R-SD)

Steve Daines (R-MT)
LD: Darin Thacker    


Deb Fischer (R-NE)

Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

Michael Bennet (D-CO)

Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)


Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)

Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA)

Tina Smith (D-MN)
U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
John Hoeven (R-ND)

John Barrasso (R-WY)
John McCain (R-AZ)

Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

James Lankford (R-OK)

Steve Daines (R-MT)
LD: Darin Thacker    

Michael Crapo (R-ID)
LD: Ken Flanz

Jerry Moran (R-KS)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Jon Tester (D-MT)

Brain Schatz (D-HI)
Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)

Tina Smith (D-MN)
Native Affairs: Adam Schiff