WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, and a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today held an oversight hearing to identify and examine agribusiness opportunities in Indian Country.
“Agribusiness is critical for Indian Country, and it’s a growing industry,” said Hoeven. “According to the most recent Census of Agriculture, there was a 9 percent increase in American Indian principal farm operators. This committee has worked to reduce the regulatory burden in Indian Country, and it is time we do the same for the growing industry of Indian agribusiness.”
Today’s discussion comes as Congress continues to work on the 2018 farm bill reauthorization. During the hearing, Hoeven asked witnesses to discuss proposals to encourage food and agricultural production in Indian Country by leveraging resources and strengthening the relationship between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Indian tribes.
The hearing dovetails with Hoeven’s continued work to support agriculture producers in North Dakota and across the country. Last summer, the senator reintroduced the Capital for Farmers and Ranchers Act, which would increase the maximum loan limits that a farmer or rancher is eligible to receive under the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Direct and Guaranteed Loan Programs. Additionally, the senator’s agriculture priorities include passing the 2018 farm bill with strong crop insurance and counter-cyclical programs to help producers manage risk.
Senator Hoeven’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
“Good afternoon. I call this hearing to order.
“Today the committee will hold an oversight hearing on ‘Breaking New Ground in Agribusiness Opportunities in Indian Country.’
“Agribusiness is of particular importance in Indian Country. The National Congress of American Indians has noted that approximately 35 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives live in rural communities, and nearly 40 percent of tribal jobs are dependent on agriculture.
“According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, there are nearly 59,000 Indian farmers and ranchers in the United States with 35,000 farms principally operated by Indian farmers. In my home state of North Dakota, over 83 percent of farms on the Turtle Mountain Reservation are tribally operated.
“Agribusiness is critical for Indian Country, and it’s a growing industry. According to the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture, between 2007 and 2012 there was a 9 percent increase in American Indian principal farm operators. This increase occurred in Indian Country while we saw a national decrease in principal farmers.
“This committee has worked to reduce the regulatory burden in Indian Country, and it is time we do the same for the growing industry of Indian agribusiness. We are here today to discuss just that, and to examine how tribes and their members can capitalize on opportunities in agribusiness.
“We have a diverse group of witnesses who are joining us today to review how Congress, the administration, tribes, and other stakeholders may work together to find common ground and help Native Americans continue to have success in agribusiness.
“I want to thank our witnesses for being with us today. As a North Dakotan, and a member of the Agriculture Committee, I am particularly interested in Indian agribusiness. I look forward to hearing your testimonies.”
The hearing featured testimony from Diane Cullo, advisor to the secretary and director, Office of Partnerships & Public Engagement, U.S. Department of Agriculture; John L. Berrey, chairman of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma; Janie Simms Hipp, director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative; and Lionel Haskie, operations and maintenance manager for the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry.
For more information on their testimonies click here.