USDA Announces April 2022 USDA Tribal Consultation on Barriers and Equity

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04 April 2022, US: The U.S. Department of Agriculture announces the “USDA Tribal Consultations on Barriers/Equity: Annual Progress Report & Feedback for Next Steps.” This five-day consultation series follows up on the March 2021 consultations held in response to President Biden’s Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities. Tribal leaders have requested USDA affirm how staff are incorporating tribal input on barriers to effectively accessing programs. From April 11 through 18, USDA Consulting Officials will highlight progress made since last year’s consultation and discuss potential solutions for ongoing issues with tribal nation representatives.

“For too long, tribal nations and individuals have had barriers to USDA services and programs,” said USDA Office of Tribal Relations Director Heather Dawn Thompson. “In addition to these consultations, we are conducting a top-to-bottom review of our statutory authorities to see where we can empower tribal nations and support tribal self-determination through our programs.”

Since the first consultation on equity and barriers in March 2021, USDA agencies have implemented changes to remove barriers to service for tribal nations. Among the improvements:

  • Agriculture Secretary Vilsack has directed USDA to explore opportunities expanding tribal self-determination across USDA programming. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service awarded $3.5 million to eight tribal nations for a project that, for the first time, allows them to purchase some of the foods for their tribe through the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).
  • Tribal leaders requested USDA better recognize their sovereignty and jurisdictional authority when financing infrastructure projects. USDA’s Rural Development has required tribal resolutions of support for non-tribal applicants intending to serve tribal land and compliance with tribal law for projects within Indian Country under the ReConnect program.
  • Tribal leaders called on USDA to better meet tribal treaty obligations. In collaboration with the Department of the Interior and Oklahoma State University, USDA is developing and regularly updating a tribal treaty rights database to better understand and fulfill these obligations.

Each day of the April 11-18 consultations will focus on different themes that are key priority areas for the Biden-Harris Administration. On each day, senior USDA consulting officials from each agency will listen to concerns from official representatives from among the 574 federally recognized tribal nations. Before each consultation, tribal organizations will facilitate caucuses to support tribal leaders in discussing these issues.

Economic Development
Date: Monday, April 11, 2022
Time: 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET – Tribal Caucus
3:00-5:00 p.m. ET – Tribal Consultation
Registration Link: www.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN__aumhH76RW-qFr9GEQAIYg

Food, Safety, and Trade
Date: Tuesday, April 12, 2022
Time: 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET – Tribal Caucus
3:00-5:00 p.m. ET – Tribal Consultation
Registration Link: www.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_rPrh1faMTxaQMkko7ZPSOQ

Farming, Ranching, and Conservation
Date: Thursday, April 14, 2022
Time: 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET – Tribal Caucus
3:00-5:00 p.m. ET – Tribal Consultation
Registration Link: www.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_CB6qpywpQ0ae7GWO-Xzvvg

Forests and Public Lands
Date: Friday, April 15, 2022
Time: 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET – Tribal Caucus
3:00-5:00 p.m. ET – Tribal Consultation
Registration Link: www.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_STUGdH2RTwGmtTg7yLAnWA

Education and Research
Date: Monday, April 18, 2022
Time: 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET – Tribal Caucus
3:00-5:00 p.m. ET – Tribal Consultation
Registration Link: www.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_OB8XbgDbSM6zkRZDF1yGuA

On March 10, 2022, the USDA Office of Tribal Relations distributed “Dear Tribal Leader” letters announcing these consultation sessions to Indian Country. These tribal consultations are formal, government-to-government meetings between USDA officials and tribal nations. Tribal organizations, tribal citizens, and tribal nation staff are welcome to attend. Elected tribal leaders, proxy representatives with authority to speak on behalf of a tribal nation, and USDA consulting officials have speaking roles at these events. USDA agencies and offices host consultations throughout the year to hear from tribal nations about how USDA policies and programs can be developed to better support tribal nation interests. 

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