Published June 12, 2018
WASHINGTON – This Wednesday morning, the Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to approve or reject an amendment after leadership released a bipartisan draft Farm Bill last Friday afternoon. There are some provisions in that draft Farm Bill that are good for Indian Country. But missing from this draft Farm Bill are several very important matters that Coalition members have sought for a long time. (The Native Farm Bill Coalition’s stance on the bill is available online.)
The Native Farm Bill Coalition asks tribes to immediately urge, before Wednesday’s markup, committee members to adopt an amendment being championed by Senators Smith and Heitkamp on behalf of Indian tribes and tribal organizations
The SMITH HEITKAMP “638” AMENDMENT 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. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN), a new member of the Agriculture Committee, and Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) have filed a “638” amendment to do this. Please contact every member of the Committee and ask them to support the SMITH HEITKAMP “638” AMENDMENT.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. Because tribes are so experienced at administering very complex federal programs and services under Pub.L. 93-638 Indian Self-Determination Act authority, it makes sense to extend “638” authority to the operation of all federally funded supplemental nutrition assistance programs. Tribes have also asked that this authority be applied to all food-related job assistance and training funds that are tied to work or training requirements. Senator Smith also introduced an identical “638” bill on the Senate floor earlier today, co-sponsored by Senators Udall (D-NM), Heitkamp (D-ND), Warren (D-MA), Baldwin (D-WI), Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Harris (D-CA).
In addition, a “SUTA” amendment may still be offered later in the Agriculture Committee by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and others, which would 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 available only 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 funding priority. Senator Tester was unable to timely file his “SUTA” amendment because of some delays in the legislative counsel’s office. He is looking for an early opportunity to offer it since it would expand SUTA authority to all of Rural Development programs, including loans, grants, and loan guarantees that support the creation of rural jobs and small business development, community facility construction, development of rural essential services and equipment for health care, first responders, and housing assistance and community empowerment. Please contact every member of the Committee and tell them that the TESTER “SUTA” AMENDMENT deserves a chance to be considered and approved by the Committee
|U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture