Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have made a renewed commitment to investment and outreach in Indian reservations. As the USDA works to implement legislation within the 2008 Farm Bill, department officials have met with tribal nations across the country to gather feedback on ways to implement certain sections of the Farm Bill specifically relevant to Indian country.
Representatives of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Rural Development hosted a tribal consultation on Tuesday, August 24 in Billings, Montana to gather comment and solicit input on the implementation of three sections of the Farm Bill. The three programs discussed were Section 5501 – Tribal Consultation on Loans to Purchasers of Highly Fractionated Land, Section 2606 – Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, and Section 6105 – Substantially Underserved Trust Areas.
Addressing a full house, Farm Service Agency Administrator Jonathan Coppess and Rural Development Native American Coordinator Tedd Buelow joined departmental experts from FSA and Rural Development in giving presentations on the three farm bill sections under the consultation, and then opened the floor for questions and comments from the audience. Rural Development State Directors Matt Jones of Montana and Derrel Carruth of Wyoming, and Farm Service Agency Executive Directors Bruce Nelson of Montana and Gregor Goertz of Wyoming also welcomed participants and invited comments from tribal members from their respective states. A stenographer was on hand to record the comments from the participants for later consideration and implementation in the final rules.
Through the course of the consultation, important issues were brought forth on the implementation and excellent comments and constructive ideas were received from the audience as they reviewed the legislation.
The Tribal Consultations are being held across the nation in implementation of these sections of the farm bill to hear from members of tribes who will be impacted by these programs.