Ben Dupris

Native American Agriculture Fund Distributes 2 million dollars of COVID-19 Response Funding to Indian Country

Fayetteville, Arkansas- The Native American Agriculture Fund has distributed $2 million dollars in rapid response funding to 74 grantees across Indian Country to aid tribal producers and their communities during the COVID-19 crisis.
These grants will provide critical relief through non-profits, community development financial institutions (CDFI), educational institutions and Tribal governments. NAAF funds will help these entities respond to their immediate needs in Indian Country’s food system caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. NAAF provided these grants to its existing 2019 grantees to fund work they have underway to assist Native farmers and ranchers. The 2020 Rapid Response grantees will execute 74 innovative projects across the country that will provide business assistance and technical support for Native farmers and ranchers.
  • 84,282 Native farmers and ranchers
  • 3,316 Native students
  • 200,476 Native households
  • 21,700 food boxes to Native families
  •  $489,000 in grants to Native producers through Native CDFI’s
  • $68,000 in scholarships for Native students
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear how essential our farmers and ranchers are,” said Janie Hipp, CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund and a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation. “Indian Country and our Native producers have been hit hard by the virus. Because of the disproportionate impact to tribal communities, we funded projects that not only addressed the immediate needs of Indian Country’s farmers and ranchers but also selected projects that will build resilience in tribal communities that lasts beyond the pandemic. The seeds planted with the Native American Agriculture Fund’s Rapid Response grants will help create long lasting and transformative change in Indian Country for years to come.”

The Native American Agriculture Fund Distributes $15 Million Dollars to 101 Organizations Serving Indian Country

Fayetteville, Arkansas- The Native American Agriculture Fund has awarded $15 million to 101 grantees for 112 distinct projects to build a stronger food system in Indian Country. This wide array of grants provides direct capital to Native farmers and ranchers through Community Development Financial Institutions, builds value added agricultural businesses for Tribes and creates community driven food systems change.
This historic investment to uplift Native American farmers, ranchers, communities, and tribes will directly benefit 270 unique Tribal Nations in 28 different states. In addition, today’s grants will provide access to credit and financing for over 2,300 Native American Farmers and Ranchers.
Today’s investment will dedicate
·       $4.8 million to Community Development Financial Institutions for 15 projects
·       $3.2 million to 501(c)3 Organizations for 40 projects
·       $2 million to Tribal Governments for 22 projects
·       $2 million to Educational Organizations for 11 projects
·       $3 million for 24 Traditional Foods, Advocacy and Agriculture Extension projects.
“Today’s investment reflects the values of the Native American Agriculture Fund,” said Jim Laducer (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa), Chair of the Native American Agriculture Fund Board of Trustees. “Through the 112 grants awarded today, we are investing in our producers, our tribes, our communities and our future. The impact of this investment will grow our Native American foodways for generations to come.”
“Our mission at the Native American Agriculture Fund is to make grants to sustainably build Tribal food economies. This $15 million dollar investment will not only grow our economies, it will ensure that our Native food systems rebuild stronger than ever through the pandemic,” said Janie Hipp (Chickasaw), CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund.
To learn more about this historic investment in Indian Country’s food system, view NAAF’s List of Grantees and Factsheet.

The Native American Agriculture Fund Releases Vision for the Future of Native Agriculture Infrastructure

Fayetteville, Arkansas- The Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) released a report entitled Reimagining Native Food Systems: A Vision for Native Food and Agriculture Infrastructure Rebuilding and Recovery that calls for a minimum of $3.4 billion investment to support Native food and agriculture.
In this landmark report, A Vision for Native Food and Agriculture outlines a plan to build processing, packaging and distribution infrastructure to support Indian Country’s farmers, ranchers, fishers and harvesters while simultaneously feeding Tribal communities and meeting their nutritional needs. An investment in food infrastructure will ensure that Native producers have access to reliable markets and the wraparound support services that are so critical to robust food systems. By approaching infrastructure from a new model and linking infrastructure investments to the food access needs of Native communities, a more resilient food systems can be built over time. Local and regional economies will recover while also ensuring that food insecurity is addressed in terms that link food producers to those needing healthy food. A Vision for Native Food and Agriculture Infrastructure also outlines targeted programming for Native Youth, agricultural financing, entrepreneurship, conservation, research and policy and many other important services upon which thriving food system depend.
A Vision for Native Food and Agriculture Infrastructure is based on five general principles:
  • Food sovereignty is based on choices related to Native food, livelihoods in Native communities and the polices and actions that support Native choices.
  • Sharing community resources will support multiple tribes across a region, not just individual tribes or individual people.
  • Fairness and equitably shared resources at a regional level will allow multiple tribal communities to achieve even more of their local, community-driven visions.
  • The wrap-around needs of Indian Country are based in sharing to ensure that the impact of individual work can achieve even greater impact across many communities.
  • It is critical to leverage the power of individual tribes, individual Native farmers and ranchers, and individual Native communities by creating shared infrastructure resources and services that help everyone.
“As we rebuild and recover from COVID-19, we must realize a more resilient food system; these principles must be included in a recovery plan for Indian Country. Native Communities have been hit the hardest by this pandemic and we see the way forward as a serious commitment to agricultural and food infrastructure,” said Janie Hipp (Chickasaw), CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund. “The Vision we release today is a blueprint for change that can reimagine our future. It is a starting point; it can be adjusted and changed to meet the needs of our communities – but it must be the path we draw our attention and energy to fulfilling. With infrastructure support, Native agriculture can reach new levels to ground our communities.”
View the Vision Document here.

Native American Agricultural Advocacy: Historic Investment Announced by the Native American Agriculture Fund and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger

Fayetteville, Arkansas – The Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) announces its historic investment in Native agriculture advocacy, awarding both the Native Farm Bill Coalition (NFBC) and the Native American Food and Nutrition Resources Alliance (the Alliance) grant funding to continue their work to ensure Indian Country agriculture has a sustained voice in ongoing federal farm and food policy. MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger has stepped up to also provide grant resources to both the NFBC and the Alliance that allow important leveraging resources at this important time in our nation’s history. A total of $1.1 million has been distributed by NAAF and MAZON.
Native agricultural advocacy has historically been overlooked and underfunded, leaving Native farmers, ranchers and nutrition programs without the critical support they need. The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) created the Native Farm Bill Coalition in 2017 as a nation-wide initiative to give Indian Country a strong united voice on federal policy related to agriculture, nutrition, and rural development. Following the historic success of the NFBC in the 2018 Farm Bill, Native producers and their communities saw a dramatic increase in awareness of the needs of Indian Country. The Intertribal Agriculture Council, as the founding co-chair of the NFBC, will continue to lead this effort and has selected former leader of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas, Colby Duren to lead the DC-based efforts of the Coalition.
Today’s announcement marks the most notable financial investment in an integrated ecosystem of Native American agricultural advocacy in the history of the Farm Bill.
“Advocacy is core to the mission of the Native American Agriculture Fund,” said Janie Hipp (Chickasaw), CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund. “Native farmers, ranchers, fishers, harvesters and food people need advocates in their corner. Our most vulnerable Native citizens need better policies that will support, and link local and regional foods grown and raised by Native farmers, fishers and ranchers to their growing food insecurity needs. This year’s advocacy grants are going to build the foundation to ensure a better agricultural and food secure future for Indian Country.”
“We take great pride in our longtime partnerships to strengthen food security and sovereignty in Indian Country, and we are excited to invest in these anchor institutions that are working collectively to transform Native food systems and agriculture,” said Mia Hubbard, MAZON’s Vice President of Programs. “We are committed to our shared advocacy to build more self-determination and equity into food programs, as well as advance policies that ensure the health, wellbeing, and autonomy of Tribes. We are honored and thrilled to leverage our resources with those of NAAF to provide this important support.”
“So much of effective advocacy is based on relationships, and we’ve watched many organizations with far less reach than ours be successful in policy advocacy because of their presence at a national level. Colby Duren brings over a decade of experience and the relationships that go with it, along with a commitment to our cause as strong as any we have seen. As the leader of the policy and research team at IFAI, he was responsible for a large portion of the NFBC effort so he’s a natural fit to assume this role,” said Zach Ducheneaux, Executive Director of the Intertribal Agriculture Council. He went on, “having a permanent presence in DC is the missing piece between our Tribal and producer-centric work. We thank NAAF for its commitment to advocacy in this important way.”
“NAFNRA was created as an outcome of our work for the last several years making sure that the needs of the most vulnerable Native citizens are front and center and that important natural linkages between food access and Native food production are created,” said James R. Mountain (Pueblo de San Ildefonso), Executive Director of Native American Food and Nutrition Resources Alliance. “While COVID-19 has exacerbated the food vulnerability in Native communities, the cracks and weaknesses in federal feeding programs have long been known. We look forward to continuing our work with NFBC, IFAI, MAZON and now NAAF, and are thankful that our work to bring much-needed food security into our communities will continue to advance.”
“IFAI serves Indian Country through legal research and policy analysis focused on food and agriculture, and in that capacity we have served as the Research Partner to the NFBC from day one, utilizing our technical expertise to develop educational materials on farm and food policy,” said Erin Parker, Research Director and Staff Attorney of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative. “We continue to be grateful for the generous support we receive from MAZON that helps make our work in this space possible, and we are excited to continue that work alongside our longtime organizational partners, NFBC and IAC, as we work together to support the future of Indian Country agriculture.”
“Indian Land Tenure Foundation is happy to partner with IAC in this endeavor,” said Chris Stainbrook (Oglala Lakota), President of the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. “Land is the base of agriculture in Indian Country and regaining the reservation lands to Indian ownership will allow the Native nations to grow and retain the economic benefits from their agricultural sector, potentially billions of dollars each year.”
The Native Farm Bill Coalition is a nation-wide initiative to give Native Americans a strong, united voice to advance a common agenda on the federal Farm Bill, which addresses everything from nutrition programs to rural development.

The Native American Agriculture Fund Distributes $1 Million Dollars to 25 Organizations Serving Native Youth

Fayetteville, Arkansas- The Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Secretary Tom Vilsack in his nomination to serve in the Biden-Harris administration as our next Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture.
NAAF is a private charitable trust and is the largest philanthropic entity in the United States whose purpose is to support the success of Native farmers and ranchers. NAAF was created as part of the settlement of the historic Keepseagle v. Vilsack litigation and our work began in earnest in 2018. His push to reach settlement in the Keepseagle case ended in the creation of NAAF.
We have been able to deploy resources to support Native agriculture – over $28M in the first year alone – to ensure that Native agriculture has a place at the US agriculture table, so that our producers can thrive and succeed, and so that our next generation are supported in their passions to feed our communities. Although our organization was born of a dark time, we are filled with the hope that comes from having resources to support our communities.
We know that Secretary Vilsack will serve all our nation’s farmers and ranchers, our agriculture businesses, our next generation of producers and our people who are struggling to find food in the middle of a pandemic. We are anxiously looking forward to making sure that the days ahead are brighter for those served by USDA. We are confident that his leadership can create new opportunities for everyone.
We know that Secretary Vilsack will lead the Department with passion, heart and a dedication to continue working to right past wrongs as well as create new opportunities for the nation’s agriculturalists, those who are hungry among us, and the nation’s rural people and communities.
Janie Simms Hipp, CEO (Chickasaw)

Native American Agriculture Fund CEO Janie Hipp Congratulates Dr. Jewel Bronaugh on USDA Deputy Secretary Nomination

Fayetteville, Arkansas- On behalf of the Native American Agriculture Fund, I am absolutely thrilled to offer my complete support of Dr. Jewel Bronaugh to serve as Deputy Secretary of USDA. Her nomination to serve as Deputy is truly historic – she will be the first African American woman to serve in that capacity. More importantly, Dr. Bronaugh is beyond well-equipped to serve.
Dr. Bronaugh is an accomplished leader on many levels. Serving as Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Dean of the College of Agriculture at Virginia State University are significant roles within the agriculture sector and positions not often held by women or women of color. She led the Virginia Farm Service Office in the Obama-Biden administration which gives her a very strong knowledge of the financial issues and stress facing the nation’s farmers and ranchers. Her nomination excites me because we share a commitment to engaging our next generation of agriculture producers. She also understands the importance of access to food within vulnerable communities. Her leadership is inspiring, and I cannot wait to help her in any way I can.
To those who say that previous administrations have not gone far enough to address issues of racial inequity and systemic problems within USDA, or who think that the leaders selected by our President and Vice President-elect aren’t going to push hard enough for change, I say this: let’s get behind our new team – get them confirmed – and get involved in doing what it takes to help create the future we all want to see. We all have a lot of work to do. I am very excited to support Dr. Bronaugh. I know she and Secretary Vilsack will give it their all.

Native American Agriculture Fund Partners with the National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization

Fayetteville, Arkansas- The Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) is pleased to announce that it has recently partnered with the National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization (NAITCO) and its Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) program members to strengthen pre-kindergarten (Pre-K) through 12th grade agricultural literacy outreach to educators serving Native American communities.
NAAF will work with NAITCO to increase the number of teachers who are working with Native students who will attend the 2021 NAITCO conference “Fields of Dreams” June 28-July 1 in Des Moines, Iowa. The conference provides important professional development opportunities for teachers throughout the country. The teachers who will come to the conference will hear from Dr. Anton Treuer, professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University, who has authored many books throughout his career. His career has been dedicated to equity, education, and cultural work; his keynote address will be: “Transformative Teaching: How to Infuse Equity Tools in Your Classroom Delivery.”
NAAF’s partnership with NAITCO will also encompass working on Native farming articles for the AgMag publication that is part of Agriculture in the Classroom work that reaches Native communities. Focusing on creating unique opportunities to reach Native communities through teacher professional development and special publications can have the combined impact of strengthening NAITC’s work in Native communities.
“With partners like the Native American Agriculture Fund, we are able to reach more teachers and more Native students, aiding NAAF in its efforts to create Native American youth leaders in the agriculture sector,” said Tammy Maxey, president of NAITCO and programs director of Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom.
“Educating youth about the value and role of agriculture, and careers in agriculture in their communities is critical,” said Janie Simms Hipp (Chickasaw), chief executive officer of NAAF. “We are pleased to work with NAITCO and assist in our joint efforts to encourage more agriculture-focused educational resources available to Native K-12 students and to assist in supporting teachers of Native students, who are such a critical link.”
NAITCO is a non-profit organization made up of AITC programs in 50 states including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Its mission is to educate teachers and students in Pre-K-12 about the importance of agriculture by incorporating agricultural concepts into classroom instruction. NAITCO and its AITC state program members reached 87,000 teachers and 8.2 million students in 2019. To learn more about NAITCO, please visit

The Native American Agriculture Fund Champions Efforts to Bring John Deere Agricultural Equipment to Indian Country

Fayetteville, Arkansas-The Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) congratulates the Akana Group, Inc. (Akana) and John Deere as they work together to provide government sales business opportunities for small businesses and Native American business enterprises.
Akana is a certified Native American owned small business enterprise specializing in connecting Native American governments and their related enterprises with important opportunities to access equipment purchasing offered by John Deere. Native American governments and many of their current and emerging businesses are engaged in more and more agricultural business activities that not only provide diversification of their business into the agriculture sector, but also produce food for use by their communities.
Akana has deep knowledge of various equipment categories important to Tribes, including agriculture, construction, forestry and lawn care. Akana’s relationship with John Deere is already providing important third-party assistance to connect Tribes to meet their equipment needs. Part of the agreement between Akana and John Deere is to leverage the strength of the John Deere dealer network to assist with both the delivery of any new equipment purchase, as well as the parts and service support needed to make the customer successful for the long term.
Agriculture continues to grow in Indian Country. NAAF, in its unique role as the largest philanthropic organization providing grant funding opportunities in support of Native farmers and ranchers, is already seeing many Tribes submit applications for scaling up their existing operations, finding new markets and making more efforts to achieve food security and economic diversification. With over 50 million acres of land in Indian Country already engaged in agriculture production, and those numbers growing, the need for equipment continues to grow. Many farmers are finding that even within a global health crisis and in the face of various disruptions in supply chain, the demand for more food production is leading to increased purchases in equipment or taking the next step to upgrade existing equipment.
Several months ago, NAAF and Akana began discussions, which have now broadened to include John Deere. NAAF knows the importance of making the right equipment decision, and the ability of Tribal governments and their affiliated entities to access pre-negotiated discount rates for equipment purchases will greatly increase opportunities for investment and can provide the edge needed.
“We look forward to working alongside the Akana Group and John Deere to bring this important opportunity to Indian Country leadership. Agriculture investments are on the rise, and we have ongoing needs for forestry, construction and turf equipment. We are thrilled to see where these new friends of NAAF will take us,” says Janie Hipp, CEO of NAAF.
Hipp’s own grandfather had a small tractor dealership in Southeast Oklahoma during her youth and she remembers how important equipment is to the success of new, beginning or well-established farms and ranches.
“Equipment needs never end,” says Hipp. “Many of the first conversations I had with Native farmers and ranchers in the early days of NAAF were around their equipment needs. If Tribal governments and their affiliated organizations can be the bridge to improving Indian Country’s access to equipment that can in turn support our continued commitment to our agriculture economies, we will all be the better for it. We look forward to deepening our relationship with John Deere and to explore all opportunities before us to make sure that Indian Country has access to the equipment it needs.”
“It is with great excitement to learn of this relationship between NAAF, the Akana Group and John Deere,” said Dr. David Yarlott, President of Little Big Horn College. “This opens up opportunities to Indian Country in the agricultural area, which includes Tribal Colleges and Universities. Growing up farming, and now ranching, I have first-hand experience in the challenges of having access to agricultural equipment. Being a President of a 1994 Land Grant Tribal College, I look forward to how we might be able to assist our local Native Farmers and Ranchers!”

The Native American Agriculture Fund Statement on the appointment of Heather Dawn Thompson to lead the USDA Office of Tribal Relations

Fayetteville, Arkansas-The Native American Agriculture Fund congratulates Heather Dawn Thompson on her appointment to serve as the Director of USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations (OTR). USDA’s OTR is a critical office within USDA that serves a wide range of functions, most importantly, to bring issues of Native agriculture to the Secretary, but also issues of rural infrastructure, markets, trade, conservation, forestry and so many more that directly impact Indian Country.
“As a former Director of the Office of Tribal Relations (OTR), I know how critical OTR is to all Native Nations – to Native farmers and ranchers – and honestly, how important the office is to the entirety of USDA,” said Janie Hipp (Chickasaw), CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund. “There are so many roles that USDA plays in rural America and in Native communities; there are also so many needs that Indian Country has of USDA. The OTR acts as that central point where Native Nations connect and USDA connects back to us.”
“Heather has a unique blend of experience and background that make her an excellent choice to lead OTR,” Hipp continued. “NAAF will stand behind her and work with her and Secretary Vilsack to achieve the next level of success in Indian Country. We are thrilled she will embark on this new challenge and know that she will work tirelessly on behalf of all Native peoples throughout the US.”

The Native American Agriculture Fund applauds the steps taken by USDA to Temporarily Suspend Debt Collections and Foreclosures on Distressed Farm Loans

Fayetteville, Arkansas-The US Department of Agriculture announced it was temporarily suspending debt collections and foreclosures for distressed borrowers under programs administered by the Farm Service Agency due to the national public health emergency caused by COVID-19.
“This is an important step that can help alleviate significant levels of stress on the agriculture sector – and more importantly on those who get up every morning to feed the rest of us,” said Janie Hipp (Chickasaw), CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund. “This action will give our nation’s agricultural producers the breathing room they need to continue on in the midst of this global pandemic. Our rural and remote reservation and agricultural communities in Indian Country will rest a little easier because of this important step taken by USDA.”
“In the past, we had to push hard on USDA to consider such actions to help producers,” Hipp continued. “Today, we are seeing USDA proactively take these steps to give folks the breathing room they need to readjust their operations and survive to farm and ranch another day. We look forward to updates in the future and other actions like this to proactively help our nation’s farmers, ranchers and dedicated food champions.”