BIA, USDA sign Native farm conservation MOU
CATOOSA – The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Bureau of Indian Affairs recently signed a memorandum of understanding to improve tribes’ and tribal citizens’ access to farm conservation programs to advance conservation in Indian Country.
The MOU was signed at the Cherokee Nation’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Catoosa, where USDA Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey was joined by BIA Director Darryl LaCounte at the Indian Nations Conservation Alliance – National Tribal Conservation Districts Conference.
According to a BIA press release, the MOU enables the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency to partner with the BIA to improve assistance to American Indians and Alaska Natives in identifying and addressing the agricultural, conservation and economic needs of tribal communities on Indian lands. This creates a foundation for improved coordination, training, planning and implementation of USDA programs on tribal lands, the release states.
“We believe that providing greater efficiency and access to conservation programs, while limiting redundancies, is crucial to helping tribal communities maximize their agricultural production,” Northey said. “Tribal landowners and land users play an important role in the management of agricultural land, and USDA looks forward to partnering with BIA to support the economic stability of tribal lands.”
LaCounte said the BIA, along with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency, have common objectives and trust responsibility to American Indian landowners and tribes for development, conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
“We look forward to continued communication and collaboration to help ensure conservation programs are implemented on Indian lands in an environmentally, culturally, and economically sound manner,” he said.
The release states that the five-year agreement will also enhance the USDA and BIA’s efforts to promote best management practices for Indian lands, including the development of rural business opportunities, the management of farm and ranching operations, infrastructure development and stewardship of environmental, cultural and natural resources on Indian lands.
The BIA will provide resource inventory, planning and management, and development assistance to Indian tribes, Indian landowners and land users, according to the release.
The Farm Service Agency will work with BIA to provide outreach that builds awareness of Farm Service Agency programs to support economic stability and increase the availability of farm loans to tribal communities, the release states. It also states that the Natural Resources Conservation Service and BIA will work to provide conservation planning and technical and financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest managers to maintain, conserve and improve natural resources on private, Indian and other non-federal lands.