January 17, 2018

Ahead of Farm Bill Reauthorization, Udall Leads Oversight Hearing on Native Agribusiness

Udall: Tribes deserve strong representation in Farm Bill reauthorization

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, led an oversight hearing entitled, “Breaking New Ground in Agribusiness Opportunities in Indian Country.” Udall highlighted how successes in Native agribusinesses have created jobs and improved food security in Indian Country, and questioned witnesses on how to build on this progress with greater Tribal input in the Farm Bill.

“Indian Country’s interest in agribusiness is real and growing,” Udall said. “There are over 56,000 Native farmers and ranchers operating on 57 million acres of land. In 2012, Native farmers brought more than $3 billion worth of products to the market. … These hard-working folks help their communities address issues related to nutrition, cultural revitalization, climate change mitigation, and research innovation.”

“Once every five years, Congress sets federal nutrition, agricultural, and conservation policies in the Farm Bill reauthorization. … Tribal lands, natural resources, foods, and economic development opportunities all are affected by federal food policy,” Udall said. “For too long now, Indian Country has been knocking at the door of the Farm Bill – asking for a seat at the table with states, counties, and other stakeholders, and asking for their due as sovereign governments. We need to all come together to push that door open and make room at the table.”

Udall noted that he will convene a bipartisan roundtable tomorrow to discuss the many ways Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) “can support Tribal efforts around traditional foods.” As Udall said, “I’ve seen the important cultural, health, and economic roles that traditional foods play for tribes from my home state of New Mexico.”

The full text of Udall’s opening statement as prepared for delivery is below.

Thank you, Chairman Hoeven. I’d like to begin by welcoming our newest member to the Committee, Senator Smith. We are glad to have you join us, and I look forward to working with you to advance the priorities of Minnesota Tribes and Indian Country as a whole in the Senate.

A warm welcome to Lionel Haskie from NAPI – I’m looking forward to hearing more about NAPI’s efforts to expand access to traditional foods, workforce development for Native youth, and innovative stewardship. NAPI is doing tremendous work.

Once every five years, Congress sets federal nutrition, agricultural, and conservation policies in the Farm Bill Reauthorization. These policies naturally have significant impacts to Indian Country.

Tribal lands, natural resources, foods, and economic development opportunities all are affected by federal food policy.

But for many decades now, Indian Country has been summarily excluded from both the discussions that shape these policies and the policies themselves. That is why I am thankful to the Chairman for calling this hearing today.

Indian Country’s interest in agribusiness is real and growing. There are over 56,000 Native farmers and ranchers operating on 57 million acres of land. In 2012, Native farmers brought more than $3 billion dollars’ worth of products to the market.

I hope to hear more from our witnesses today about how Congress can better support these efforts to get Native agricultural products on the grocery store shelves all over America.

But market-value is only one piece of what Native farmers and ranchers bring to Indian Country. These hard-working folks help their communities address issues related to nutrition, cultural revitalization, climate change mitigation, and research innovation.

In fact, the testimony from our witnesses today underscores this point. This committee must take a broad approach to its review of federal agricultural policy.

That is why, tomorrow afternoon, Chairman Hoeven and I will convene a bipartisan roundtable to discuss the many ways Congress and USDA can support Tribal efforts around traditional foods, especially in light of a new Farm Bill that is actively being considered by the Committee on Agriculture.

I’ve seen the important cultural, health, and economic roles that traditional foods play for Tribes from my home state of New Mexico – many of my fellow members on this committee can probably attest to the same in their home states.

It’s important that the record fully reflect this priority, and so I request that the transcript from tomorrow’s roundtable be included in the record for today’s hearing.

Both today’s hearing and tomorrow’s roundtable represent a solid start when it comes to the Farm Bill and Indian Country.

But, I’m calling upon everyone on this dais today to share what we learn with our colleagues who don’t sit on this committee, and to work together to see what legislative changes we can secure for Tribes and Native farmers in the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization.

For too long now, Indian Country has been knocking at the door of the Farm Bill – asking for a seat at the table with states, counties, and other stakeholders – asking for their due as sovereign governments. We need to all come together to push that door open and make room at the table.

With that, Mr. Chairman, thank you again for calling today’s hearing and working with me on tomorrow’s roundtable.

I’m encouraged by our joint efforts – and I look forward to working with you and the leadership of the Agriculture Committee, where you and several other Indian Affairs members also sit, on the legislative side of things.