Published December 17, 2018
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative (IFAI) at the University of Arkansas (IFAI) has launched its Model Food and Agriculture Code Project as a resource and model code for tribal governments for review, adoption, and implementation. In 2015, the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative was honored to receive funding and support to coordinate the Code project from: the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community through their Seeds of Native Health campaign, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, Agua Fund, Inc., the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, and the Farm Credit Council.
IFAI Founding Director Janie Simms Hipp recognized the need for tribes to have agricultural laws after working with tribes throughout the United States and finding only a handful had adopted or enacted any such laws.
“When tribal governments do not exercise their sovereignty in this specific way,” Hipp stated, “they are left with either local, state, federal, or international laws being the ‘rule of law’ that then apply to their activities the minute their foods cross tribal jurisdictional boundaries or their farmers transact business away from home.”
In addition to agricultural enterprises, recent federal laws further ushered the need for tribes to enact their own laws and regulations to protect their traditional food and associated cultural practices.
The Code is designed to be adopted and implemented in whole or part, each section was written with model (sample) language as well as other tribal code and state statute examples. It is meant as a starting point for tribes, and can be customized or strengthen by each respective adoptee. There are 19 sections in the current Model Code version and IFAI will launch additional sections periodically in the future.
Since IFAI cannot provide legal advice, it is recommended that tribes work with their in-house counsel or contracted attorney during the adoption process. IFAI can offer non-legal advice on the adoption process and will host a webinar on code adoption in January 2019.