Secretary Vilsack speaks to National Congress of American Indians Tribal Nations Legislative Summit in Washington, DC on March 13.
Earlier today, Secretary Vilsack published an op-ed in Indian Country Today discussing USDA’s efforts to improve access to capital for Tribal citizens. You can read the original op-ed here.
Last week, I spoke to several hundred tribal leaders at the National Congress of American Indians Tribal Nations Legislative Summit here in Washington, DC. The conversation was wide ranging, but boiled down to two key topics: what have we achieved, and how can USDA programs better support sustained economic growth in Indian Country?
USDA and our partners in Indian Country have made significant improvements to critical infrastructure over the past five years. In the past year alone, USDA invested more than $625 million in Indian Country through our Rural Development programs. We have worked with Tribes to bring new and improved electric infrastructure to Tribal lands and financed Tribal community facilities, including schools, medical facilities and Tribal colleges and universities. Read more »
NRCS State Conservationist Keisha Tatem, NRCS Assistant Chief Kirk Hanlin (center) and Eric Juan with the Gila River Tribal Community discuss the efficiency gains of the concrete-lined irrigation ditch in the community. Before this ditch was lined, much of the water was lost. NRCS photo.
I come from generations of Mississippi River towboat captains and family farmers. From as early as I can remember, our family believed that if you were going to do a job, you’d better do it right, and that no job was either too big or too small.
Hard work was valued, and everyone always looked for new ways of doing jobs better. The river and the land have long supported our family. From time to time, I have an experience that takes me back and today’s trip was one of those times.
Recently, when I was crossing the Colorado River from California into Arizona, I thought about how many times I had crossed the Mississippi River from Illinois to Iowa or Missouri. But crossing this river was very different. Driving into Arizona, there was desert as far as I could see in any direction. This instantly sparked my curiosity. Read more »
Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, seated left, hosted a panel on the role of women in agriculture at the 2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum. Photo by Bob Nichols
In February, it was my privilege to moderate a panel that featured four exceptional women at the Agricultural Outlook Forum. The break out session was titled “A Roadmap for Women in Agriculture,” a lively and thought-provoking exchange on the future of women in agriculture.
Autumn Veazey, Debbie Hamrick, Kate Danner and Leslie Wheelock, all shared their passion for agriculture and gave great advice on how to earn a seat at the table. Read more »
FRTEP extension agents and a Colville Confederated Tribe representative in Washington State with invasive Scotch thistle. Infestations of this noxious weed can reduce forage production and land use by livestock. Photo by Daniel Fagerlie, Washington State University Extension Tribal Relations Liaison Regional Specialist and Project Director of APHIS PPQ
Helping American Indians develop profitable farming and ranching businesses, engaging tribal youth in 4-H, enhancing natural resources on reservations, and reaching out to tribal communities about topics that are of interest to them are just some of the activities supported by the Federally-Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP). FRTEP is administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and conducts education programs on Indian reservations and Tribal jurisdictions through partnerships with the 1862 Land-Grant institutions. FRTEP extension agents serve as liaisons between the Tribes and USDA programs and services. The purpose of the FRTEP program is to support extension agents who establish extension education programs on the Indian Reservations and Tribal jurisdictions of Federally-Recognized Tribes. Program priorities reflect the following areas: 1) Development of sustainable energy; 2) Increased global food security; 3) Adaptation /mitigation of agriculture and natural resources to global climate change; 4) Reduction of childhood and adolescent obesity; and 5) Improved food safety.
Later this month, FRTEP agents will meet in Fort Collins, Colorado, to receive an overview of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), its programs, and expertise. APHIS is a multi-faceted Agency that is responsible for protecting U.S. animal and plant health, and animal welfare. Read more »
NRCS field staff work closely with Tribal members on education, outreach and implementation of on-the-ground conservation practices. Loren Crank Jr. and Barry Hamilton with NRCS worked with Bill Todachennie, the chapter’s vice president, on this project.
Grasses for grazing livestock are making a comeback on Utah’s McCracken Mesa thanks to a project partnership among the Aneth Chapter of the Navajo Nation, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Known as the McCracken Mesa Rangeland Project, the Aneth Chapter is working to rehabilitate degraded land through a grass establishment project. McCracken Mesa rises 5,500 feet and covers 57,000 acres. An estimated 37,000 acres are intended for grazing livestock. But the mesa’s terrain, extreme weather and overgrazing from livestock have left much of the land bare.
The use of native grasses ensures a more sustainable ground cover for the mesa along with habitat for wildlife. Plants that are native to an area typically are the most suitable for restoration efforts because they boast advantages such as adaptability to the soil and have mastered surviving and thriving in the sometimes harsh environment. Read more »
Tim Mentz Sr., Standing Rock Sioux cultural resource expert, explains the historical significance of the area that is now the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota. (U.S. Forest Service/Fred Clark)
Our curiosity was palpable in our expressions, we visitors to this South Dakota field, as we pondered the patterns produced by the tops of rocks pressed into grass and soil, patterns tantalizingly organized and purposeful: shapes of things that have been. What stories were held in this small corner of the Black Hills National Forest?
As members of the Forest Service’s sacred sites executive and core teams, our task is to develop ways to fulfill the recommendations from the Report to the Secretary of Agriculture: USDA Policy and Procedures Review and Recommendations: Indian Sacred Sites.
Visiting this sacred place was the starting point of our learning and working together as a team. We needed to experience firsthand the feeling and meaning of this place to help us incorporate an appropriate attitude as we started three days of meetings on how to best implement the recommendations, to better protect and provide access to Indian sacred sites. Read more »