Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye
Published December 16, 2018
WASHINGTON — Navajo Nation President Begaye commended the U.S. House of Representatives’ passage Wednesday of the long-awaited 2018 Farm Bill, which includes a historic number of tribal provisions.
The bill, which the House approved with a 369-47 vote, passed through the Senate on Tuesday with 87 votes in favor and 13 against. President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law.
The bill includes a number of key provisions that benefit Indian Country, including making permanent the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Tribal Advisory Committee, a body tasked with identifying issues and making recommendations to the secretary. It also recognizes the Office of Tribal Relations as an important USDA function.
“The Navajo Nation appreciates the bi-partisan leadership from our agricultural advocates in Congress,” President Begaye said. “Agriculture is a mainstay of Navajo life and economy, and this bill addresses some of the everyday rural challenges faced by residents of the Navajo Nation, along with many of the concerns I have heard from small and tribally owned businesses, students, schools, farmers and ranchers.”
The bill includes several priorities of the Navajo Nation and other tribes, including the following:
· Promotes international trade by appointing tribal producers to trade missions.
· Provides the Rural Utility Service the authority to refinance telephone and broadband loans.
· Provides opportunities for organics by creating $14 million in mandatory funding for the Organics Cost Share Program between fiscal 2019 to 2023.
· Allocates funds for states to use funds to support organic production and transition to organic production.
· Defines Indian tribes as an eligible partner for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.
· Codifies Indian tribes and tribal organizations eligible for Community Connect Grants.
· Establishes a Rural Development Tribal Technical Assistance Office to assist with rural development funding.
· Provides competitive funding to colleges and universities for the Children, Youth, and Families at risk funding program under the Equity in Educational Land-Grant Status Act of 1994, and the Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program.
· Amends the Equity in Education Land-Grant Status Act of 1994 to update the name change of a Navajo tribal college to “Navajo Technical University”
· Provides competitive grants to land-grant colleges and universities to provide support targeted for Tribal students, and describes maximum funds per state, use of funds, and application for funding.
· Directs the Government Accountability Offices to study the agricultural credit needs of farms, ranches, and related agricultural businesses that are owned or operated by Indian tribes on tribal lands or enrolled members of Indian tribes on Indian allotments; and evaluate the Farm Credit System authority and resources to meet the needs.
· Expands Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act contracting authority (638 authority) to the USDA for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.
· Expands 638 authority for Tribal Forest Protection Act management activities at USDA and the U.S. Department of the Interior, as well as eligibility for tribal nations to exercise Good Neighbor authority for forest management agreements with USDA and states.
The Navajo Nation has not taken a policy position on a provision in the bill which authorizes Indian tribes to regulate hemp production.