NCAI Alert: Congress Passes Farm Bill

Congress Passes H.R. 2642 – The Farm Bill

February 2, 2014 – This afternoon, the Senate passed the Farm Bill Conference Report by a vote of 68-32 after the House passed it last week, solidifying a five-year reauthorization of agricultural and nutrition programs. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation soon. While the final legislation cut the Supplemental Nutrition Program by $8.6 billion, it does include a number of important reforms and Indian Country-specific provisions.

In the coming weeks, NCAI will be co-hosting a webinar on the Farm Bill to discuss the legislation in more detail.  In the meantime, we have provided some information on the tribal provisions and overall changes in the bill.  If you have any questions, please contact NCAI Legislative Associate Colby Duren (cduren@ncai.org).

Specific Indian Country Provisions

 Title II – Conservation

 Tribal Parity in Soil and Water Conservation Act Programs – Section 2508

  • Explicitly adds tribes as an eligible entity for Soil and Water Conservation Act Programs.

Nutrition – Title IV

Feasibility Study, Report, and Demonstration Project for Tribal Administration of Federal Food Assistance Programs – Section 4004

  • Calls for the Secretary of Agriculture to release a report, after consultation with tribes, on the potential for tribal administration of federal food assistance programs that benefit their citizens which are currently administered by the states.
  • The Study will be finished no later than 18 months after final enactment of the bill
  • The report will include: a list of programs, services, functions, and activities which can be administered by tribes and tribal organizations; if a statutory or regulatory change is necessary to allow for tribal administration; and issues raised during tribal consultation.
  • Secretary must make $1 million available for funding the report.

Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations Traditional Foods Demonstration Project (FDPIR) – Section 4004

  • Creates a new demonstration project with technical assistance and tribal consultation to allow the inclusion of traditional and locally grown foods from Native farmers, ranchers, and producers in FDPIR.
  • One or more tribal organizations are eligible for this demonstration project that would allow for the purchase of nutritious and traditional foods and, when practicable, foods produced locally by Native producers for distribution to recipients of FDPIR.
  • The Secretary is required to perform consultation, provide outreach to Native farmers, ranchers, and producers on training and capacity to participate in the project.
  • $2 million is authorized to be appropriated for each fiscal year from 2014 to 2018.

Assistance for Community Food Projects – Section 4026

  • Allows “tribal organizations” to be eligible for Community Food Projects.

Service of Traditional Foods in Food Service Programs – Section 4033

  • Allows for the service of donated traditional foods in residential child care facilities, child nutrition programs, hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and senior meal programs.
  • Traditional foods include: wild game meat; fish; seafood; marine mammals; plants; and, berries.
  • Includes a waiver of liability for tribe or tribal organization against any civil actions arising from harm caused by the donation of tradition food.

Title V – Credit

Loans to Purchasers of Highly Fractionated Land – Section 5402

  • Authorizes the Secretary to make direct loans under the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act.
  • Expands the eligibility of the Indian Land Acquisition Program to individuals.

Title VI – Rural Development

Tribal College and University Essential Community Facilities – Section 6005

  • Reauthorizes the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act program through 2108.

Title VII – Research, Extension, and Related Matters

Equity in Educational Land-Grant Status Act of 1994 – Section 7402

  • Amends the definition of a “1994 Institution” to include the following new institutions/changes:
    • Strikes “Crownpoint Institute of Technology” and inserts “Navajo Technical College”;
    • Strikes “Community” from Sisseton Wahpeton Community College;
    • Strikes “Fort Belknap College” and inserts “Aanniih Nakoda College”;
    • Strikes “Si Tanka/Huron University”;
    • Inserts “Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College and “College of the Muscogee Nation.”
  • Reauthorizes Sections 533(b), 535(b)(1), 535(c), and 536(c) in the Equity in Educational Land-Grant Status Act of 1994 through 2018.
  • Expands the pool of qualified partners that TCUs can partner with on research grants to USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, other land-grant colleges or universities, a non-land-grant College of Agriculture, or cooperating forestry school.

Manager’s Amendment

Title IV Nutrition – Agricultural Marketing Service 

  • Encourages the Secretary to work with tribal organizations on using accredited third-party certifiers for Agricultural Marketing Service, existing infrastructures on reservations, particularly extension agents, or trained, certified tribal employees or officers to certify producers on tribal lands.

New Provisions and General Changes

Title I – Commodities

  • Repeals direct payments to farmers for income stabilization accounting for nearly $40 billion in savings.
  • Provides farmers with choice between two counter-cyclical safety net programs, Price Loss Coverage or Agriculture Risk Coverage, to use in difficult times only.
  • New dairy margin insurance program which maintains base production level.

Title III – Conservation

  • Reduces 23 conservation programs down to 13 to address the issue of overlapping efforts.
  • Includes the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

Title IV – Nutrition

$8.6 Billion Cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

  • Unfortunately, the final bill cuts SNAP by $8.6 billion. This represents a compromise between the $4 billion in cuts the Senate bill proposed and the nearly $40 billion from the House bill. The savings comes from increasing the threshold amount of Low-Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) assistance necessary to qualify for increased SNAP benefits-the so called “Heat and Eat” provision-from $1 to $20.
  • The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 850,000 people will lose or have diminished SNAP benefits because of this provision.

Title – VI – Rural Development

  • Requires $150 million in mandatory funding for the water and waste programs.

Title XI: Crop Insurance

  • Strengthens federal crop insurance programs and increases coverage amounts and allows for whole farm coverage.

 NCAI Contact Information: Colby Duren, Legislative Associate –cduren@ncai.org

Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights.

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