Tribal Economic Impacts of the Farm Bill
December 12, 2018
On December 12, Congress passed the Farm Bill, a large and complex piece of legislation renewed by Congress approximately every five years that shapes federal food and agricultural policy. This iteration of the Farm Bill, which was passed after months of back and forth negotiations, contains a historic number of tribal provisions, including several that support Indian Country economic development.
Supporting Tribal Economies
The Farm Bill contains a number of provisions and programs that promote tribal agriculture and agribusiness, as well as infrastructure and economic development. While the bill supports the ability of tribes to serve as economic drivers in their regions, it also promotes much-needed food access and tribal government parity when it comes to hemp production, trade, and access to local markets.
Key tribal economic development provisions from the Farm Bill are below:
- Hemp Production: Legalizes industrial hemp farming and authorizes new tribal plans to self-regulate, develop, and expand hemp production; provides technical assistance to tribes in developing plans; and requires that states permit a tribe to transport hemp across a state so long as the hemp is lawfully produced under a tribal plan.
- Refinancing Authority: Provides refinancing authority for some Rural Development programs currently within the Substantially Underserved Trust Areas (SUTA) designation.
- Broadband: Provides for tribal priority, inclusion, and access to broadband programs, including the Community Connect program, to build infrastructure and economic development opportunities in Indian Country.
- Federal Investments: Codifies and expands Tribal Promise Zone program authority in order to bring greater focus to federal investments in tribal communities in ways that stimulate local economic development.
- Traditional Foods in Local Markets: Includes tribal eligibility for the Local Agriculture Market program to help tribes grow, process, and market Native foods.
- Trade: Provides for increased support to include tribes in international U.S. trade delegations.
- Micro-Loans: Authorizes and makes tribes eligible for micro-loans for local foods in food insecure areas.
- Businesses and Infrastructure: Creates a Tribal Technical Assistance Office within Rural Development to support tribal governments applying for programs to build businesses and infrastructure.
- Policy: Establishes a Tribal Advisory Council to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to advise the Secretary on tribal issues and policies.