Press Releases

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.”

The Native American Agriculture Fund Supports Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior

Fayetteville, Arkansas- The Native American Agriculture Fund lends our full support for the confirmation of Congresswoman Deb Haaland of Laguna Pueblo on her confirmation to be Secretary of the Interior. If confirmed, Haaland will be the first ever Native American woman to serve as a cabinet secretary.
Haaland has deep roots in Native agriculture and understands the intricacies of producing food on Tribal lands. As a small business owner, she knows what our Native farmers and ranchers face when bringing their goods to market. She recognizes the role the Bureau of Indian Affairs plays in creating economic development on Indian Reservations and how food can build rural economies. With Haaland at the helm at the Department of the Interior, the federal government will have a leader with the lived experience to lead our rural economies into a brighter future.
“Deb Haaland is an incredible choice to lead the Department of the Interior,” said Janie Hipp (Chickasaw), CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund. “She brings decades of solid and informed experience to the position and knows what it takes to build strong, local food economies that will sustain our communities and feed our people.”

FFAR and AAMVC Seek Nominations for Veterinary Fellowship

There is a critical need for veterinarians’ involvement in challenges ranging from environmental sustainability to population growth, yet few fellowship opportunities exist that encourage veterinary students to study these issues. To help students gain this experience, the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) and the Association for American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) are seeking nominations for FFAR’s Veterinary Student Research Fellowships (FFAR Vet Fellows). This fellowship supports veterinary students’ ability to gain experience in animal health, global food security and sustainable agriculture research.

Most funding opportunities for veterinary scientists focus on biomedical research, which leaves new challenges in animal agriculture unaddressed. Veterinarians with experience in medicine, animal sciences and public health add unique perspectives to solving food production challenges and nutritional insecurity. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for research that examines whether and how agricultural pathogens could spread in humans.

In 2018, FFAR teamed up with AAVMC to establish the FFAR Vet Fellows and integrate the fellowship with existing summer student research programs. The fellowship culminates at the National Veterinary Scholars Symposium at the end of the summer. The fellowship is open to students currently enrolled in a DVM or VMD degree program.

With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, FFAR and AAVMC expanded the Vet Fellows program to include student projects that focus on supply chain resilience and surveillance or computational modeling related to the mutation, evolution, transmission and spread of animal coronaviruses and influenza viruses.

The 2021 FFAR Vet Fellows program is accepting up to 15 students to conduct research with a mentor in areas ranging from global food security to mitigating the carbon footprint of agricultural production. Students do not need to have prior research experience and matching funds are not required for this program. The program also encourages nominating institutions to consider how their nominees might contribute to diversity, equity and inclusion in the fields of veterinary medicine and agriculture research.

The deadline to submit nominations is March 24, 2021. Up to two students per institution are eligible for nomination. Specific information about nominations, eligibility and the application process can be found on the 2021 FFAR Vet Fellows Open Opportunity webpage. FFAR and AAVMC will encourage veterinary colleges to consider hosting students from different institutions, including by use of video/remote technologies.

“It is essential that veterinarians have opportunities to gain research expertise across a spectrum of important disciplines,” said FFAR Executive Director Dr. Sally Rockey. “These students may go on to study and mitigate global challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic or climate change. FFAR Vet Fellows allows veterinary students to conduct audacious research at the intersection of global food security and animal health.”

“We’re honored to work with FFAR again on this important program,” said AAVMC CEO Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe. “The experience our students gain through these Veterinary Student Research Fellowships inspires them to consider careers in agricultural, veterinary medical and biomedical research at the same time they provide an opportunity for them to make significant contributions in addressing major problems in food production, food security and public health.”

The Native American Agriculture Fund Statement on the Passage of the American Rescue Plan

Fayetteville, Arkansas- The US House of Representatives and US Senate have now passed the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue package. The bill is on its way to President Biden for his signature. The Native American Agriculture Fund applauds this important step with so many much-needed provisions to aid in the nation’s recovery from COVID-19 impacts.
The American Rescue Plan contains substantial provisions for Indian Country and for Native farmers and ranchers. The bill includes $4 billion in debt relief for socially disadvantaged producers which includes Native farmers and ranchers and another $1 billion to support a broad array of technical support to assist socially disadvantaged producers. This technical assistance will enable Black, Indigenous and other producers of color to begin to repair the harm caused by the impacts of the pandemic but also address long-standing issues related to how USDA’s programs impact farmers and ranchers.  The bill also contains another  $31 billion in spending that will allow Indian Country to begin to recover from the profound impacts of the pandemic.
“Indian Country and specifically  Native farmers and ranchers, who are the heart and soul of NAAF’s work, have been hit hard by the pandemic. We have needed relief for a long time,” said Janie Hipp (Chickasaw), CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund. “The American Rescue Plan will bring much needed resources to Indian Country to begin the long road of recovery. As we continue to study the ways in which the act can assist our communities, we can begin to see the lights ahead.”

The Native American Agriculture Fund Congratulates Deb Haaland on her Confirmation to Serve as Secretary of the Interior

Fayetteville, Arkansas- The Native American Agriculture Fund applauds the confirmation of Deb Haaland of Laguna Pueblo on her confirmation to be Secretary of the Interior. Secretary Haaland was confirmed to serve as the United States’ next Secretary of the Interior by a vote of 51-40 in the US Senate. Secretary Haaland will be the first Native person in this role and first ever Native American Cabinet Secretary.
In this historic confirmation, Indian Country will finally be able to see themselves in their Secretary of Interior.
“Secretary Haaland has deep roots in agriculture and serving Native communities,” said Janie Hipp (Chickasaw), CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund. “We are thrilled to be able to call a Native American woman Madam Secretary. She will do an incredible job not only for Indian Country but for the whole country.”
“This is the most historic confirmation Indian Country has ever seen,” said Toni Stanger-McLaughlin (Colville), Director of Programs. “This confirmation means that Indian Country’s issues will be at the forefront and we have full faith that Secretary Haaland will serve us well.”

NAAF Statement on the Nomination of Janie Hipp to Serve as USDA General Counsel

“Janie Simms Hipp, J.D., LL.M grew up in a small southeast Oklahoma community, beginning her legal career in the 1980s during the tumultuous farm financial crisis as farmers and ranchers faced problems unrivaled since the Great Depression. She served within the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office while establishing a national presence advocating on behalf of farmers and ranchers. Hipp received an LLM in Agriculture Law from the University of Arkansas, joining what was to become a new specialization focusing on the legal complexities of agriculture. She taught agricultural law and food policy for decades while crisscrossing the country working with farmers, ranchers and food businesses. In addition to authoring numerous domestic publications on agriculture and nutrition law, her work also includes international engagement on matters related to food policy. Her domestic and international law and policy career spans over thirty-five years. She has been recognized as a Distinguished Alumni at two universities and has been recognized twice by the American Agriculture Law Association. She is a member of the Chickasaw Nation located in Oklahoma and resides in Arkansas with her husband.”
“I am grateful to President Biden for nominating Janie Simms Hipp, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, to serve as General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I have the utmost confidence and respect for Janie. I know that she will faithfully carry out her duties to enforce the laws and regulations of the USDA, safeguard producers, protect socially disadvantaged communities, make good on USDA’s responsibility to provide nutrition assistance to children and families, and ensure the interests of the American public are served by USDA’s programs and services. She has a decades-long career dedicated to protecting and ensuring the legal rights of underserved and underprivileged communities. Before serving as CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund, Janie was the founding director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas. I appointed her as my senior advisor for tribal affairs and then as director of the Office of Tribal Relations in the Obama Administration, among other senior positions. For more than 35 years prior to her federal service, Janie built an outstanding career as an agriculture and food lawyer and policy expert. Her work has focused on the complex intersection of Indian law and agriculture and food law.”
“If confirmed, Janie will join a senior leadership team committed to ensuring the fair and equitable implementation of all USDA programs in service to the American people. Her skills and knowledge will contribute to removing barriers to access wherever they exist, building a fairer and more just food system, and helping to build a stronger, more resilient rural America.”
On Wednesday, March 17th, the Native American Agriculture Fund issued their statement regarding President Biden’s intent to nominate Janie Hipp as General Counsel of the US Department of Agriculture:
“NAAF is excited for Janie Hipp’s nomination to serve the Biden Administration. The entire staff at NAAF is confident that she will represent USDA and the country well. This is an important opportunity, and we acknowledge the gravity of this moment. This will be beneficial for all of agriculture.”
“Janie Hipp has done an astounding job building NAAF from the ground up since 2018, from a court order into a private charitable trust that has distributed over $28 million in grants to benefit Native American farmers and ranchers,” said Jim Laducer (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), Chair of the NAAF Board of Trustees. “We are thrilled that she will bring this experience to USDA as General Counsel and NAAF fully supports her in this role.”
“Janie Hipp brings over 30 years of experience to this position,” said Dr. Joe Hiller (Oglala Lakota), Vice Chair of the NAAF Board of Trustees. “If confirmed, she will be the first ever Native American to serve as General Counsel at USDA and will be the most senior Native person to serve USDA in its 159-year history. We are confident that Janie will do an incredible job not only for Indian Country but for the entire country.”
To view President Biden’s announcement on his intent to nominate Janie Simms Hipp as General Counsel of USDA, you may read President Biden Announces his Intent to Nominate Key Members of his Administration.


March 23, 2021
The National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization (NAITCO) has partnered with the Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) to encourage teachers of Native American students to attend the 2021 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference “Fields of Dreams” scheduled for June 29-July 1 at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa. The two organizations are seeking applications from those who are teaching pre-kindergarten-12th grade students at a Tribal government-operated school, a Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) school, a BIE supported school, a school on a reservation teaching Native American students, a non-reservation school that has a high percentage of Native American students, or a teacher with a Tribal affiliation.
The deadline for applications is April 1, and applicants will be notified of the results by April 30. For more information and to apply for a special scholarship, please visit the NAITCO website at Grants and Scholarships ( NAAF strongly believes in the future of agriculture and that teachers are a critical link to helping students become more familiar with food and agriculture concepts and information and looks forward to connecting with educators both during and after the conference.
For more information, contact Lisa Gaskalla (NAITCO) by emailing or calling (352) 745-0246 or Cindy Farlee (NAAF) by emailing

The Native American Agriculture Fund Announces 2021 Request For Applications

Fayetteville, AR- The Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) announces its third annual Request for Applications. NAAF, the largest private charitable trust devoted to serving the interests of Native farmers and ranchers, continues to invest in Indian Country agriculture with this cycle of grant making.
The General grant cycle opens today, April 1, 2021 and closes June 1, 2021. Youth applications close on May 25, 2021.
With $15 million in available funding, NAAF seeks grant applications from 501(c)(3) organizations, educational organizations, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), and state and federally recognized tribes. All details about the Request for Applications (RFA) can be found on the NAAF website. NAAF will also host 5 webinars during the application period.
“With our third RFA, we aim to build on the success of our past grantees but also reach new communities to effectuate positive change in Indian Country’s food system,” said Janie Hipp (Chickasaw), CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund.
“In 2021, Indian Country is at a critical inflection point for our food systems as we recover and rebuild from COVID-19,” said Toni Stanger-Mclaughlin (Colville), NAAF Director of Programs. ”The promise of self-determination through our food systems is within our grasp and we look forward to funding projects that uplift all of Indian Country, especially our Native farmers and ranchers, with this funding cycle.”
“The NAAF Board of Trustees is pleased to announce our third request for applications,” said Jim Laducer (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians), Chairman of the NAAF Board of Trustees. “This is the critical function of the Native American Agriculture Fund- to make grants to eligible entities. Since our funding began in 2018, we have invested $28 million to improve Indian Country’s food system and through today’s opening of applications, we will continue to invest in our food and agriculture, our people and our food economies.”

NAAF Congratulates Bryan Newland on his Nomination to Assistant Secretary- Indian Affairs

ayetteville, AR- The Native American Agriculture Fund applauds the White House nomination of Bryan Newland as Assistant Secretary- Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior. Newland’s nomination will now go to the Senate for confirmation. If confirmed, Newland will join Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) at the Department of the Interior. Bryan Newland is a citizen of the Bay Mills Indian Community and recently completed his tenure as Tribal Chairman of his Tribe.
“Bryan Newland is an outstanding pick to lead the Department of the Interior’s work with Tribes,” said Toni Stanger-McLaughlin (Colville), NAAF Director of Programs. “Newland’s background as an attorney, national policy advisor, and Tribal leader have equipped him with a unique skill set that will allow him to be incredibly effective as soon as he is confirmed. A decade ago, when working across departments with Bryan, he was always receptive to Native American Farmers and Ranchers’ needs and willing to facilitate work between the Department of Interior and the United States Department of Agriculture. Through his leadership, we can build stronger economies for everyone.”