How Will Farm Bill & Food Stamp Cuts Impact Indian Country?
a feasibility study from the Secretary of Agriculture on the tribal administration of federal food assistance programs. “FDPIR is already managed by tribes [and] FDPIR has proven that tribes can effectively run these programs and in most if not all cases do so with greater attention to the needs on the ground of their people,” Hipp says of the provision. “I’m all in favor of turning over these programs to be run by tribes for the benefit and service to their people.”
The farm bill also creates a new demonstration project for the FDPIR to include traditional and locally grown foods by Native farmers, ranchers, and producers. “This shows that Congress is acknowledging that local, traditional foods continue to be important to our people,” says Hipp, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation.
Both the feasibility study and the demonstration project still need to receive funding from congressional appropriators, but tribal advocates, including those at NCAI, say the authorizing language is a positive – and long fought for – first step.
For both provisions to be successful, Hipp says that the input of FDPIR tribal managers and other Indian food and agricultural experts will be important. “Such a study and demonstration project must be handled in a way and by entities that truly understand Indian country agriculture from farm to fork, and tribal governments must be involved as they have the authority to set policy within their jurisdictional borders that would form the ongoing cradle for local and traditional food production, “ she says. “The study should not be done by an entity without that intimate level of knowledge, or we won’t uncover all the issues that should be included in a comprehensive report on the topic.”
A third new provision of the farm bill related to Indian country allows for the use of traditional foods in public food services programs such as schools, elder care facilities, and hospitals and makes tribes explicitly eligible for Soil and Water Conservation Act Programs.
While the pro-Indian provisions in the final legislation are exciting to advocates like Hipp, the cuts are still tough to swallow. “I’m not excited about any cuts to hunger programs—we have a whole bunch of hungry people,” she says. “But at the end of the day I’m also a student of agriculture policy, and farm bills have always been an exercise in compromise.”
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